Climate change challenges ahead

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has confirmed Australia will almost certainly fail to meet the modest greenhouse gas emissions target set for it under the Kyoto protocol.

Rudd’s first official act after being sworn in as Prime Minister yesterday was to sign the Kyoto protocol. He then released government forecasts showing that Australia is likely to “overshoot” by 1% its target of keeping emissions to no more than 8% above 1990 levels.

The revelation means Australia could have to agree to make even bigger cuts to emissions in the post-Kyoto framework which is currently in the very early stages of negotiation at the UN conference on climate change in Bali.

Environment Business Australia chief executive Fiona Wain, who is attending the Bali conference, says Australia needs to accept that a big step up will be required under the post-2012 framework.

“The Kyoto targets as they stand are very low compared to the scale of the challenge ahead of us. What we’ll be discussing over the next two weeks is how the very deep cuts required can be achieved in a workable way,” Wain says.

Wain says while there are unavoidable costs associated with big cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, the key test for Australian policy and business leaders is to move quickly to seize the substantial opportunities that will become available.

Once Australia’s ratification of Kyoto becomes final in March, Wain says, Australian companies in sectors such as technology and finance can begin to take part in Kyoto’s clean development mechanisms and move towards participation in the multi-billion dollar European emissions trading scheme.

But the real test – and the biggest opportunities – will only be unlocked once a post-2012 global climate change plan is in place, Wain says.

“Where we can and should lead internationally is in demonstrating how an energy intensive country can retain its prosperity by being smarter and more efficient in industry, in energy efficiency, cleaner fuels and renewable energy, all of which we have to fast track in a big way,” she says.


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