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As in Australia so in the US « Previous | |Next »
November 28, 2009

As in Australia so in the US with respect to acting on climate change. As Jeffrey Sachs observes:

There are several reasons for US inaction – including ideology and scientific ignorance – but a lot comes down to one word: coal. No fewer than 25 states produce coal, which not only generates income, jobs and tax revenue, but also provides a disproportionately large share of their energy... Since addressing climate change is first and foremost directed at reduced emissions from coal – the most carbon-intensive of all fuels – America's coal states are especially fearful about the economic implications of any controls

For Australia just think Queensland, NSW , Victoria, South Australia--coal states. Minimal reform with lots of public subsidies is their game plane. Now think coal state senators with their blackhats.

Sachs says that:

until recently, many believed that China and India would be the real holdouts in the global climate change negotiations. Yet China has announced a set of major initiatives – in solar, wind, nuclear, and carbon-capture technologies – to reduce its economy's greenhouse gas intensity. India, long feared to be a spoiler, has said that it is ready to adopt a significant national action plan to move towards a trajectory of sustainable energy.

Sachs asks: "could the US Senate really prove to be the world's last great holdout?" Nope. There is the Australian Senate since many Coalition Senators senators from the coal states are unlikely to support decisive action on climate change, other than to prevent the economic impact on the coal states and to demand even more favours for business.

They are not concerned about market failure, or how to produce much more energy with much less CO2, nor with influence the demand side of the market, leading to consumers adopting more sustainable behavior by making sustainable low-carbon choices. Nor do they talk about making buildings more efficient or mandating green buildings.

I can imagine some blackhat Senators saying that if energy efficiency worked, everyone would have done it already. When others look a bit puzzled they would elaborate along the lines that what they meant was that this is like the joke about the two economists who ignore a $100 bill they see lying on the street, figuring that if the money were real someone would have picked it up.

So what is Copenhagen about? The conservatives would say that these good guys are a good guide to what is going on. One of them--Lord Monckton spoke at a recent IPA conference in Australia. There is nothing online from the conference, but some of Monckton's climate change denial rhetoric can be foundhere.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:51 AM | | Comments (3)
Comments

Comments

Thanks Gary.

Do I smell a Kyoto? Australia and the US refusing to aim high because of coal boots?

Peter,
it looks increasingly likely with respect to international carbon markets doesn't it, even though at the international level, it is now increasingly recognised that the traditional
model of resource intensive industrialisation is no longer viable. There does appear to be a growing awareness that we may have reached a critical threshold, beyond which environmental costs are likely to exceed economic benefits.

It is a pity that a majority of the Australian Senate doesn't think along these lines. For all their routine appeal to 'wait until Copenhagen' they are really out of step with an emerging international consensus.

On the other hand, Copenhagen will probably not achieve much by way of a comprehensive treaty. It look more like a "political agreement" will happen that provides the framework within which a deal (ie., a legal agreement) could be agreed sometime in the future.  

China is at the centre of the global debate. Worsening pollution trends, increasing resource scarcity, and widespread ecological degradation have serious implications for China’s ongoing modernisation drive. However, we know little about China’s environmental statecraft in Australia.

I suspect that China is beginning to take a more prominent role in global efforts to tackle climate change, its future approach towards international engagement may not necessarily be aligned with liberal notions of global governance held by the US, UK and Australia.

Alan Kohler says in Business Spectator that:

The meeting in Copenhagen next week of every country on the planet will conclude something similar, without actually coming up with a specific international emissions trading scheme to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocols. But that’s just a matter of time.The climate change sceptics have lost the argument, and so have the carbon taxers: momentum continues to build for a global scheme to create tradeable carbon emissions permits.

Rather than building wind farms, solar arrays, investing in geothermal power and using more gas over the past 12 Australia's been sailing along happily with coal and enjoying electricity prices at least 50 per cent below the rest of the world.

The crunch is gonna come in terms of an increase in the price of electricity across the board.