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Australia and climate - Dec 4

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Rudd's warm Kyoto reception

Matthew Franklin and Siobhain Ryan, The Australian
KEVIN Rudd has ratified the Kyoto Protocol as the first formal act of his Government, ending Australia's international isolation on climate change.

Within hours of being officially sworn in as the nation's 26th prime minister, Mr Rudd held his first executive council meeting with Governor-General Michael Jeffery, who agreed with his request that Australia ratify the decade-old protocol.

News of the ratification spread quickly, sparking a sustained burst of applause on the floor at the UN climate change conference in Bali, which Mr Rudd will attend next week on his first overseas trip as Prime Minister.

Many delegates rose to their feet to applaud the ratification, and senior Australian delegation member Howard Bamsey, from the Department for the Environment and Water Resources, was forced to wait about a minute before completing his statement to the assembly.
(4 December 2007)
Contributor Stuart McCarthy writes:
This was a front page story in print edition of The Australian. A Sky News video story is also available at the original url.


The global warming battle: united we stand, divided we fall

Tim Colebatch, The Age
They call it the prisoner's dilemma. A group of you are captured, separated and individually interrogated. When your turn comes, you don't know what those interrogated before you have said. Do you confess, at the risk of giving away the evidence that could convict you? Or deny it, at the risk of increasing your penalty if others have confessed?

You might wonder what this has to do with climate change, and the meeting under way in Bali to launch negotiations for a post-Kyoto agreement. Plenty, says Ross Garnaut, the man commissioned by Kevin Rudd and state governments to report on what should be Australia's policy on climate change.

Twenty years ago, Garnaut was Rudd's boss. At 41, having invented the resources rent tax and been economic adviser to Bob Hawke, he was ambassador to China, while Rudd was his bright young Mandarin-speaking workaholic. They have kept in touch, and Garnaut, a man of sharp mind who was shunned by John Howard for his Labor ties, relishes being back in the policy arena.

Last week he gave his first speech setting out his views on the issues (on the net at www.garnautreview.org.au). In short, his views are that:

  • Climate change is "a worse and more urgent problem than we thought", requiring firm, quick action.

  • There are "diabolical" policy challenges in getting effective international agreement, partly because "the incentives are all wrong".
  • The world has the technological and economic ability to stop global warming.
  • There might never be one big international agreement, but a series of commitments.
  • The costs of action are relatively small.
  • The biggest challenge is to design an emissions trading system that cannot be captured by vested interests.

To sum it up, Garnaut is confident we could solve the problems, at little cost : it "might mean that Australia's GDP would treble by 2051 rather than 2050" : but he is not confident that we will.
(4 December 2007)
Submitted by Lewis Cleverdon


Australia signs up to Kyoto deal to end 10-year exile

John Vidal, The Guardian
Australia yesterday joined the fold of rich countries committed to tackling climate change by signing the Kyoto agreement to limit CO2 emissions, at once distancing itself from the US and ending a 10-year diplomatic exile on the issue.

The decision on the first day of the UN conference in Bali follows the election last week of a new government which has promised to address climate change. It was applauded by delegates from many of the 189 countries who have arrived in Indonesia to start negotiations on a follow-up treaty to come into force in 2012.

Yesterday the US, now the only developed country not to have signed up to Kyoto, said it intended to be "very open and flexible" in the talks, which will continue for 11 days in the Indonesian resort island.

Harlan Watson, US chief negotiator, said America, which is responsible for 22% of the world's climate change emissions, still backed voluntary targets to fight climate change but viewed a possible deal "with an open mind". But he held out little hope that the US would agree to a cap on its emissions at this early stage of negotiations.
(4 December 2007)


Climate campaigner's road from 'raving idiot' to Australian of the year

Neil Sands, AFP
Australian scientist Tim Flannery grew used to receiving quizzical looks in the 1990s as he pounded the corridors of power in Canberra urging politicians to do something about climate change.

"You'd go and see a federal minister and they'd stare at you like you were a raving idiot," Flannery says of his early lobbying efforts.

"You could see them thinking 'what's this guy spouting on about?'.

"That only changed recently."

A shift in the Australian public's attitude towards climate change, brought about in no small part by Flannery himself, means politicans are now far less dismissive of the scientist-turned-environmental campaigner.

The extent to which the views that Flannery's critics once derided as fringe nonsense have become part of the mainstream was demonstrated last January, when the 51-year-old was named 2007 Australian of the Year.
(2 December 2007)

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