Thursday, February 21, 2008

Garnaut gets tough

Giles Parkinson
Business Spectator

Business people attending a Lowy Institute function in Sydney last night were presented with two troubling statistics.

The first was that the amount of coal set to be burned in power stations across the globe in the next 20 years will exceed all that burned since the first lump was incinerated in 1753.

The second statistic was that since the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in 1990, the rate of emissions growth across the globe has trebled.

The message from Ira Magaziner, a former advisor to President Clinton and chairman of the Clinton Climate Initiative, is that whatever targets are set to try and reduce carbon emissions, the most important thing is that these targets are actually met.

So if it was not already absolutely clear that Australian business would soon have to face up to the realities of a carbon-constrained economy, then Magaziner’s comments and the interim report presented yesterday to the Federal Government by Professor Ross Garnaut should shatter any remaining illusions.

After 10 years of denial, and a last-ditch and somewhat bizarre attempt by the Productivity Commission last month to suggest that climate change can’t be that bad, Garnaut has finally laid the challenge squarely on the table.

His report sweeps away three falsehoods peddled by the naysayers and embraced by a befuddled and compromised Howard administration: namely that mitigation was too hard, too costly and too futile.

The world, Garnaut says, is moving towards high risks of dangerous climate change more rapidly than has generally been understood.

Far from seeking to minimise the amount of carbon that must be extracted from the economy, Garnaut says the targets should be increased, possibly as high as 90 per cent by 2050, and strong interim targets introduced.

Where Howard's line was that Australia has more to lose by taking action, Garnaut asserts that the country has more to lose if doesn’t do anything.

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