Friday, July 4, 2008

Environment lobby warms to report

Adam Morton 
The Age, July 5, 2008

PROFESSOR Ross Garnaut's blueprint for Australia tackling climate change won support from the environmental lobby — but perhaps not as warm as might have been expected.

While most praised it for laying bare the cost of inaction, some questioned why the review only modelled scenarios that accepted the possible devastation of environmental landmarks, such as Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef.

Despite their concerns, most immediately shifted focus to urge the Government to accept Professor Garnaut's advice.

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said Professor Garnaut's performance was "formidable", and his portrayal of the impacts of climate change emphatic.

"If the Government responds with the right policies, today, the fourth of July, would mark an important step towards carbon independence day."

Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry said the draft Garnaut report was "sound and credible, but conservative".

He said the review failed to assess the possibility of carbon dioxide stabilising in the atmosphere at 400 parts per million — the level scientists argue is needed to give the best chance of avoiding a two-degree rise in temperature.

The Garnaut Review modelled at 450 and 550 parts per million only. Climate scientists argue 450 parts per million — which would require greenhouse emissions to stabilise almost immediately — means at least a 25% chance of temperatures rising more than two degrees.

"Professor Garnaut is not looking at a scenario that would give our kids the best chance of having a healthy Great Barrier Reef, or avoiding an Australia that is devastated by droughts," Mr Henry said.

Greenpeace chief executive Steve Shallhorn said the report placed too much faith in clean coal, an exploratory technology hoped to give dirty coal-fired power a greener future by capturing carbon dioxide and burying it underground.

WWF Australia chief executive Greg Bourne focused on the Coalition, urging it to "end the cheap, political point-scoring" and adopt a bipartisan approach to climate change.

"Australia's response to this enormous challenge is at a critical juncture — we can't afford to have the Opposition undermine the emissions trading scheme for its own political ends," he said.

Unions backed the report. Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union official Tony Maher said it was nonsense to fear energy sector workers would lose their jobs because Professor Garnaut opposed compensation for power companies under an emissions trading scheme.

"The fact is that those power companies will lose share value — that's the cost of doing business and not doing it in a very smart way," he said.

"They won't be able to turn off those power stations, and it's immoral that they run the scare campaigns that they've been doing."

Professor Kurt Lambeck, president of the Australian Academy of Science, backed the call for the Government to massively boost its investment in green energy technology.

With AAP

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