typing is not activism….

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New climate of opportunity for Australia behind PM Rudd

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From the first Monday of December – nine days after his victory – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will be attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali. 11 days, 198 countries, and 10,000 delegates; thanks to 3,000 journalists in attendance, the whole world actually will be watching.

Forecasting change from a third of a world away the UK’s Guardian newspaper last week ran two lengthy feature stories – one aptly titled ‘It’s the environment, John’, the other characterizing “the world’s first climate change election”.

Most Australians are keenly aware of pressured environments and impacts of climate change. Yet for many who wonder what they can do to actively help, answers such as ‘buy a Prius’ or ‘use a washing line’ have offered little real incentive. Their collective vote, however, must surely be one of the single biggest acts of grassroots environmentalism in Australian history.

Thanks perhaps to a distracted or tentative media, many Australians don’t yet realize what a dramatic climate change U-turn this country has just taken. But it puts the country on course to joining Kyoto and, more immediately, the far-from-ordinary climate conference in Bali.

It is expected that our representatives will deposit a letter with the peak body, signed by Rudd and committing to fully ratify Kyoto. Australia will be joining a global community in crisis, rather than complaining from the sidelines and, perhaps more significantly, America will be left as the sole developed nation opposed to ratification – an outright pariah at last.

For the first time in several years – and on the basis of Rudd’s commitment – Australia will not be locked out of high level talks. Significantly, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has spoken of alarming and credible climate science setting the political stage “for a real breakthrough — an agreement to launch negotiations for a comprehensive climate change deal that all nations can embrace.”

If such a breakthrough is possible, now is the time. Peer-reviewed research conducted by the Global Carbon Project, the University of East Anglia, UK, and the British Antarctic Survey and published in late October found that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have in fact risen 35 per cent faster than expected since 2000. They attribute this to the decreasing abilities of natural carbon sinks – oceans, forests, and soils – as well as a lack of anticipated decreases in the carbon intensity of the global economy.

Ki-Moon hopes for negotiations on such a deal to be completed by 2009. This shortened time frame is due largely to a history of unnecessary delay coupled with alarming new observations, indicating that global warming impacts are already much more severe than anticipated.

For these reasons Ki-Moon recently declared climate change to be a global emergency. He has also insisted that Bali not be used as an opportunity for apportioning blame, but as the moment wherein global cooperation must be found and the following key priorities must be met.

“Any grand bargain must include incentives to help developing countries move towards mitigation and adaptation. It needs to assist developing countries in three ways:

It needs to provide for better funding for clean energy technologies;

It needs to spur financial flows for adaptation; and

It needs to enhance research and development cooperation, as well as transfer of clean technologies, particularly for energy supply and adaptation.

These are the challenges that lie ahead. In two weeks, the Bali Conference will test our resolve to deliver on them.”

The key parliamentary hurdle to ratification, now that the government is finally one with both will and a mandate, will be the Senate. It seems likely at this point that when the newly elected Senators are appointed in July 2008, Labor will have the one-seat majority necessary to pass legislation by teaming with an enlarged cross-bench of Greens (sadly diminished by the loss of Kerry Nettle in NSW) and South Australian Independent, the anti-slotmachine candidate Nick Xenophon.

He does not want to be remembered as the Senator who blocked the Government in the manner reminiscent of Whitlam’s ultimate downfall. He proclaims aversity to the Iraq war, WorkChoices, and the pulp mill.


Written by typingisnotactivism

November 27, 2007 at 2:58 pm

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