As the sun comes up on day five in cloudy, cold Copenhagen i’d like to turn your mind to Australia. Yes, we have the wonderful beaches and forests. Gorgeous creatures that live wild and free. Open plains and valleys and modern, cultured cities. This is how international people see us, right? Maybe not.
When it comes to climate change, the world is saying some crappy things about Australia, along the lines of us being the Cletus of COP15.
Here is The Guardian’s analysis of Australia:
Influence rating ★★★
The easy ride it has so far enjoyed over carbon emissions makes a tricycle with stabilisers look difficult to master. Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions levels in the world, yet its deal at Kyoto allowed it to increase total levels by 8%.
Friends and foes Quick to welcome Obama’s emissions pledge last week, and invited to be a “friend of the chair” by hosts Denmark. The creeps.
What they’re offering A fence-sitting 5%-25% cuts (that upper-end target comes with lots of strings attached).
What they most want PM Kevin Rudd wants Australia to break with the past and be seen as a climate leader.
Least likely to say "Mate, did you know we chuck out more carbon per person than the US?"
With all our environmental credentials, how can international analysis be so rough? Last night, I met with a Phd student from Yale who is a non-paid party of the Ecuador delegation. He has told me that the Australian delegation is always vocal and always fights for what we want. Great.
However, at this point, what we want is not aligned with the rest of the world or the science. I met with Louise Hand, Australia’s Chief Ambassador, on Wednesday. Just one example was Louise stating that Australia is aiming for 450ppm with the caveat that it is 450 or less. The UN Chief Scientist is calling for 350ppm, and more than seventy nations have already adopted this target.
The other ways that we are behind the eightball include financing for adaptation and mitigation in developing nations. Globally, there have been calls for large sums of money to be invested in developing nations so that they can manage the worst of the immediate effects of climate change whilst preventing increases in emissions. I have heard the figure being as large as $160b US per annum needed from Climate Action Network Australia, George Woods. The Commonwealth came out recently with a statement that $10bUS would be provided and Australia has said we will be part of this.
This is outrageous. Per capita, we are one of the largest emitters in the world. As part of the Commonwealth, we are part of the group of nations that have been polluting since late 1700’s. There is no one nation with a greater responsibility in the world than Australia, and we are not proposing anything substantial.
These are just two examples. There are many more such as emission reduction targets or exemptions to forestry measurements that have lead to increased logging of old growth forests and other special deals that mean Australia can increase emissions while everyone else reduces theirs.
What is underlying this disgraceful negotiating stance?
In Australia, we have a sense that we are the best country in the world. Environmentally, we do our bit. Our emissions are negligible and we are a responsible global citizen, we think.
However, climate change is no longer just an environmental issue. Climate issues are effecting the lives of people all over the world causing displacement, sickness, starvation and death. As a developed nation we have a responsibility to act early because of our historical use of coal and fossil fuels. We are not acting early. In fact, we are not acting and we are not acting late.
Our reliance on coal and, i hate to be blunt but, our apathy and laziness means that we cling to conspiratorial or denialist ideas over making simple changes like investing in renewable energy. Our political leadership is batty (see Mad Monkey video previous blog) or manipulating Australians to feel like we are achieving something without any pain.
The reality is, we are late. We are late to act and there will be pain. If we continue our line, we will be relegated to the backshed of the international community with the Saudi Arabians (who want compensation for money that will not be spent on oil purchases!?) and we will face the consequences. Consequences of trade issues, falling further off the map and even being the holiday destination where no-one goes anymore because “they are a bit backward down their.”
The time to put more pressure on your representatives is now. Survival for the barrier reef, for the people of the island nations and for people all over our world is not negotiable.