29 March 2007

Climate economist Nicolas Stern has urged the Australian Government to sign up to a global treaty to reduce carbon emissions 30 per cent by 2020.

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has heeded Stern's advice with a policy to reduce emissions 60 per cent by 2050.

This angered Prime Minister John Howard who said that such reductions would be devastating to Australia’s economy.

In Howard's opinion Australia is doing enough for climate change. He said that we already have an agreement through the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6).

Stern said that he’d be surprised if the reduction devastated Australia’s economy, but that studies into the costs do need to be done country by country.

The climate is the greatest market failure according to Stern. It presents a unique challenge to economics, he said.

If we continue the way we are going, we will swallow up to 20 per cent of GDP from across the world by 2020, Stern predicted. By urgently addressing the need to reduce emissions the cost will only be about 1 per cent of the world’s GDP, he said.

Australia has refused to ratify the Kyoto agreement on the basis that big emitters like China and India should be part of the deal.

Stern said there is a critical misunderstanding here. China and India actually emit less energy per capita than developed nations.

There needs to be mutual understanding, he said. And the best way to do this is to embody it in an international treaty, where individual countries will have different responsibilities under the treaty.

Stern put the onus is on the rich countries to take the lead because they are responsible for emitting 75 per cent of the concentration in the atmosphere.

They should also compensate for the lesser emission reductions of the poorer countries, Stern said.

To stop the world from going above 3 degrees centigrade, relative to pre-industrial times, the rich countries will need to reduce their emissions by 60 to 90 per cent by 2050. Even that, he said, is a modest ambition considering that anything above 2 degrees centigrade is thought to be dangerous by some scientists.

According to Stern, Australia is in a good position to take a lead on climate change because it has good international relationships. By opening up our trading schemes carbon finance will be cheaper and bring our costs down. If Australia can deliver clean coal technology, he continued, it will prove to the developing countries that carbon caption storage for coal works well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So who's winning at last?