Thursday, July 9, 2009

Symbolic pledge on climate cuts

Adam Morton and Paola Totaro

The Age, July 10, 2009

AN HISTORIC agreement by eight industrialised powers that global warming should be limited to 2 degrees has been undermined by their inability to convince developing nations to support the aspirational target.

The G8 on Tuesday agreed they should cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 as part of a global cut of 50 per cent.

It is the first time the US has joined other rich nations in recognising scientific warnings that temperatures must be kept within 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels to give the world a chance to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd cautiously welcomed the non-binding agreement, but warned real results hinged on breaking the deadlock in negotiations with developing nations including China and India.

Speaking ahead of the climate-focused meeting of the 17 members of the Major Economies Forum overnight, Mr Rudd said an agreement including the developed and developing world would not be possible at the talks in L'Aquila, Italy.

"There are 150 days to Copenhagen (climate summit in December) and we have got to give our negotiators fresh impetus, a fresh mandate, a fresh commissioning from their political leaders to try and forge an agreement because this will shape so much of the world's future," Mr Rudd said.

The G8 declaration was hailed as a symbolic victory, but included wriggle room: no clear baseline year against which emissions cut would be measured was nominated.

It has ramifications for Australia, which has a 2050 target of only a 60 per cent cut below 2000 levels. The Government has promised to boost this to 80 per cent after the next election if an ambitious climate treaty is signed in Copenhagen.

Climate groups welcomed the agreement, but said it fell short of the firm commitments needed. "We need urgent action on a strong 2020 emissions reduction target if we are going to achieve … 2 degrees," WWF Australia's Paul Toni said.

The G8 agreement was overshadowed by major developing nations rejecting even an aspirational goal for 2050. They wanted to see rich nations commit to emissions reductions of 40 per cent by 2020 before agreeing to a long-term goal.

Australia's proposed target range is 5-25 per cent.

A final draft declaration for the Major Economies Forum, representing countries that produce more than three-quarters of global emissions, removed an earlier mention of specific targets. Instead, it said only that a global goal should be identified in the next five months.

Yesterday the Federal Government also released a new report showing that climate change is happening faster than expected. The summary of recent scientific research found changes in ocean temperatures, sea levels and Arctic sea ice were all at or beyond worst-case forecasts.

As a result, Australia faces a greater risk of recurring severe droughts and more heatwaves, floods and bushfires.

Download the new report here: Climate Change 2009: Faster Change and More Serious Risks

1 comment:

Lighthouse said...

Well Steve,
there is no doubt that reduction could be much simpler!

Sufficient first phase 2020/2030 emission reduction is achieved by acting on ELECTRICITY generation (coal, gas) and TRANSPORT (mainly automobiles) alone, since these 2 sectors typically (as in the USA) account for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The focus on electricity and transport gives several advantages - apart from lowering CO2 emissions:

1. Local environmental benefit from less pollution of sulphur and all else that’s in the emissions, regardless of the less certain or immediate global benefit from CO2 reduction.

2. Electricity supply alternatives which together with improved grid distribution gives better competition and keeps down electricity bills for consumers.

3. Transport alternatives (using electricity, hydrogen and other energy sources), which give variety of choice and competition advantages for consumers, additionally reducing the dependency on oil imports.

4. No trade problems: Unlike Cap and Trade, which involves cement, steel and other industries having to face imports from unregulated countries, the here suggested electricity and transport changes are not just more limited, but also largely local. Since there is little competition between say utility companies internationally, "best practice" results can be compared and shared.

Funding and Impact
Equity and long term loan finance can be used: Long term industrial loans from financial institutions, particularly if federal/state guaranteed, give low yearly interest repayments and lessen the effect on electricity bills or transport cost.

Compare with
today’s all-encompassing Cap and Trade (emission trading) suggestions, with unpredictability, expense, and needless disruption from normal business practice on one hand, or unnecessary profiteering from free allowance handouts with little actual emission reduction on the other hand - together with extensive -and unnecessary- regulation on what people can or can’t buy and use.

Understanding why proposed Cap and Trade is bad, in USA and elsewhere
Basic Idea — Offsets — Tree Planting — Manufacture Shift — Fair Trade — Surreal Market — Real Market — Allowances: Auctions + Hand-Outs — Allowance Trading — Companies: Business Stability + Business Cost — In Conclusion

The Way Forward
Introduction — Funding and Impact —No Energy Efficiency Regulation — A New Electric World
Electricity Generation — Distribution
Transport Power Generation — Regulation — Taxation