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Kyoto: Australia's last stand « Previous | |Next »
July 13, 2004

In yesterday's and today's Australian Financial Review (subscription required) there are articles on climate change, the European Union and the Kyoto Protocol. They are based on an interview by Geoff Kitney with Margot Wallstrom, the EU's environment commissioner.

Wallstrom says that once Russia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol--and they are preparing the instruments to ratify Kyoto--- the critical mass required for it to come into effect will be achieved. The likelihood is that the rest of the world will go ahead with implementing the treaty. That pretty much leaves the US and Australia standing alone as the main opponents of Kyoto. Wallstrom says:

"I expect they will still continue to hold out. There is a lot of prestige and there are a lot of vested interests involved....But I think in the end, so many countries willl adopt Kyoto the pressure will be too strong for the United States and Australia. The pressure will come from their business communities. Already we have many US companies coming to us because
we are going ahead with emissions trading early next year. They want to trade with us."

A thought. Is Australia standing with the US because of the alliance relationship? It is being a loyal ally by giving the US a fig leaf of international credibility. Surely not? Is it not more likely that the Howard Government has been completely captured by the energy-intensive industries?

Wallstrom then goes onto say:

"I think that despite the positions of the US and Australia, we do have a consensus that climate change is happening. We have a consensus that is real and also a consensus from the world's best scientists that it is man-made and that the influence of human activities means we have a reason to act."

How long will the last stand by the world's two major greenhouse-gas-producing developed nations continue?

At the moment the US and Australia are opposed to reducing emissions within an international legal framework, which establishes the rules by which all nations must play. Is this yet another expression of the Howard Government's contempt for the institutions of liberal internationalism?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:02 PM | | Comments (3)


It is difficult to envisage quantity controls on GG emissions working. Australia is a large emitter because of its minerals and energy resources. For example, a couple of suburbs away from me is Ion Automotive(previously Castalloy), an aluminium foundry, which produces among other things, alloy wheels for Harley Davidson. (They also supply automotive castings to GMH which exports its Monaro, etc)Now clearly these wheels supply a world market, yet the emissions from this process are generated in Australia and add to our per capita consumption. Would it make us all feel better if these raw materials were exported to a low emission country and used there? This would certainly help Australians meet Kyoto targets, ie the letter of the law, but would it achieve the intent of the law?

two considerations that change your scenario:

There is a regime of emission trading to be established that the Ion Automative plant can participate in.

The power to generate the Ion Automative plant need not come from coal-fired powered stations in the La Trobe Valley or NSW.

So the moving off shore scenario is a scare tactic. One used by the aluminium industry all the time.

What the above consideratins show is that just talking about researching geosequestration, as the Howard Govt does, is okay but it is not really enough.

Why cannot the aluminium industry can take the big brave and bold step for co-generation, instead of holding their hand out for ever more subsidies from the taxpayer.

Read what Wallstrom is saying again. Whilst the US & Australian governments have their heads in the sand, business is approaching the EU to participate in emissions trading.

That says it all.

Gary, I'm not sticking up for the aluminium industry or any industry in particular. I'm also not too clear on what emissions trading actually involves. All I'm saying is that it's a feasible scenario for a country like Australia to ship its resources overseas to a place like China and buy back the manufactures from their polluting/emitting country. We could also help to pay for this by trading in services and the knowledge industries. Presumably this could meet our Kyoto targets, but wouldn't it simply be an exercise in global semantics? A bit like a 'no nukes' dump in SA. Now we will get 8 separate dumps. Touchy feely for us, but will it reduce nuclear waste?