Australia - May 1
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We hoped for better, Kevin
Lyn Allison, On Line Opinion
I hate to be a wet blanket on an event that captured the imagination of the country and did produce some good ideas but not a lot turned out to be new in this highly massaged summit.
... The ambition to dramatically decrease our ecological footprint while continuing to grow our economy and improve our quality of life got up despite Barry Jones’ observation that this was like saying we could grow fatter while getting to be thin.
Disagreements about sustainability were resolved by dropping all the ideas that were objectionable to business because the rule was consensus, not voting. So when the coal lobby objected to the proposal that no new coal fired power stations be built until CCS (carbon capture and storage) was commercially available, proven safe and efficient, and objected to any mention of renewable energy, they were relegated to the “disagreements” section.
... Ideas got condensed into what we once called mission statements, like having a “dynamic, innovative and climate resilient water system” but turned out to be code for new and privatised sources of water like desalination.
I wish I could be a more enthusiastic summiteer, but putting 1,000 “brainy” people into the workshop mill did not produce much more than laudable vision statements and ideas that have been around for years.
I worry that 2020 has let the government off the hook. Nothing here seriously challenged the election promises, like the $31 billion in inflationary tax cuts or other ill-considered initiatives, common to both major parties. The ideas that were in any way concrete did not add up to the expectations of a laudable vision and indeed they tended to be even less ambitious than current policy and more in keeping with the former government’s conservative agenda.
... We hoped for better than this, Kevin. Go back to the drawing board and to the serious work that has been done by summiteers in their day jobs and by your colleagues in the Parliament and by the many worthy organisations, groups and individuals that put up good, considered public policy.
(1 May 2008)
The experience of the Australia 2020 Summit will probably repeated again and in other countries. What strategies might have been more effective for activists? -BA
Solar? Wind? Forget it, we're goin' to gas!
Kellie Tranter, ABC (Australia)
Was the 2020 Summit anything more than a stage-managed attempt by the Federal Government to provide itself with a popular "mandate" to do what it wanted to do anyway?
If what the Government believes to be appropriate policies can be blessed with the appearance of popular legitimacy then the risk of not being re-elected is minimised. A disturbing account by Anna Rose, one well-motivated young participant who was plonked into the sustainability and climate change sector, certainly supports that impression.
But even though Australia is the world's largest coal exporter, I'm not sure that the clean coal lobby is the Government's favourite child. Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson was interviewed by Kerry O'Brien about renewable energy two weeks ago. After several repetitions of an exasperatingly formularised answer about carbon trading schemes, he let slip, "I might also say, you shouldn't forget a relatively clean source of energy, that is gas." A pointer towards the real agenda?
... The compelling inference from the information that is about is that the Government has no genuine interest in truly green alternative energy sources; through the dictates of financial necessity its policies have been co-opted by the fossil fuel lobbies, and Australia inevitably will continue finding, extracting and selling, to be burned here or abroad, as much coal and gas as it possibly can.
We will ignore "expensive" (that is, if you ignore the externalities of the fossils) but necessary alternatives like wind and solar power, we will waste money subsidising industries whose profitability is at an all-time high in a quest directed not to an optimal outcome but to maximised private profits, and all in farcical contradiction to one platform upon which the Rudd Government truly was given an electoral mandate, namely to take real action on climate change.
If Australia's coal and gas exports were interrupted our entire economic foundation would be threatened. So, seen in the warm glow of glorious economic truth, "our" Australian gas undoubtedly is set for a big future.
Kellie Tranter is a lawyer and political commentator. She is chairperson of the Standing Committee on Legislation for BPW International.
We're at the point where the desire line splits
Elizabeth Farrelly, Sydney Morning Herald
Give me convenience or give me death. That was the album, 20 years ago, by which the punk band The Dead Kennedys bagged-out American consumerism. Now, it looks like convenience and death may be one and the same, and Australia could yet lead the charge.
Convenience, it might be argued, was the main value of the modern century. Labour-saving gadgets and time-saving widgets meant we all spent less and less effort getting more and more of pretty much everything. Wall-to-wall carpet, door-to-door commuting, cradle-to-grave insurance. Mega-malls, global comms and rear-seat entertainment so you can take the kids on holiday without them ever actually being present.
Now, for a couple of grand, you can top up your convenience quotient with a kitchen device that custom-moulds polymer plates for dinner, then melts them down and remoulds them, all clean and sterile, ready for breakfast. No messy fights over who washes and who dries. Or a fancy French toilet that washes and dries, both, AND sucks away the smell, absorbing "odour molecules" while you, well, wait.
For a moment, what with climate change, peak oil prices, Iraq and the subprime thingo, it looked like all this might be at risk. Like we might have to stop building across our most fertile land. Stop belching carbon into the air. Stop cramming more and more energy consumption into each roll of the sun.
But no. All is well. God has smiled on the Ruddbus. All at once, it seems, we have been blessed with three celestial gifts. Where once was peak oil, now there is extra continental shelf the size of 10 New Zealands, ours to explore and exploit for oil and gas.
(30 April 2008)