Talk On Climate Change, But Action Questioned

Six countries responsible for around half of the world’s greenhouse emissions met last week with a range of industry representatives to address the warming of the planet.

However environmental groups and opposition parties say that the funds committed during the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, as well as the incentives for industry to change its ways, do not go far enough.

Eight groups were formed to research ways to reduce greenhouse emissions, which are to report back with concrete actions in roughly a year.

Additionally, a communiqué was issued stressing the ongoing importance of fossil fuels in meeting the majority of countries’ energy requirements.

Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell asserts that economic growth is a reality that is needed to drive clean development, encourage investment into clean technology and reduce poverty, and crucial to that path is the burning of fossil fuels.

“To highlight the size of the task, the International Energy Agency predicts that the world will need another 7800 new power stations in the next 30 years—power that is needed for hospitals, health care, schools and communication and a host of other necessities,” Senator Campbell said in a statement.

“It is irrelevant whether [new technologies] involve energy from renewable sources such as wind, water, the sun or hot rocks or from traditional fossil fuels such as coal—the atmosphere doesn’t care as long as we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The reality is that world will need energy from both renewable and traditional sources for the foreseeable future.”

During the conference, Australia set aside A$100 million over five years, with one quarter designated for renewable energy projects. The United States also set aside a one-off amount of US$52 million.

However Mr Campbell asserts that the brunt of the task ahead is to be borne by industry.

“The global climate challenge will involve extraordinary, multi-trillion dollar public and private sector investment in the energy sector, and significant funding in research and development into low emission technologies, their commercialisation and deployment.”

Mr Campbell says that outcomes of the conference include “…a public commitment to real actions”, as well as an agreement that “governments and business must work together to achieve sustained economic growth and lower greenhouse gas emissions.”

However critics of the conference have called on Australia to join the 148 countries already signed up to the Kyoto Protocol and set targets for reducing emissions.

Environmental group WWF says that the Howard government has locked the world into a four degree rise in surface temperatures, which will wreak havoc on natural ecosystems, cause a sharp rise in heat-related diseases and lead to an increase in freak weather patterns.

“The only way to avoid dangerous climate change is for the world to agree on a plan to reduce emissions. The Kyoto Protocol is the only global treaty to do this,” said the organisation in a statement.

The Australian Democrats have labelled the government’s contribution of $20 million a year for five years as “worse than pathetic”.

“Just $5 million dollars a year of this will be ear marked for renewable energy!” said Democrats environment spokesperson Andrew Bartlett. “This is less than one tenth of what this Government gave to itself to promote their workplace relations policy! So much for climate change being a priority.”

Also, while not opposing the inclusion of fossil fuel industry groups, the Democrats said their involvement should not be to the exclusion of other parties.

“By dismissing anyone who supports the Kyoto Protocol and setting up their own exclusive climate change club with the highest emitting industries, Mr Howard and his colleagues have made constructive, cooperative progress on climate change issues impossible in Australia,” Senator Bartlett said.






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