Email to Prime Minister Rudd re: Copenhagen

By Rewi Lyall

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Dear Prime Minister [I may have accidentally neglected to include this salutation in the form I sent to the PM. Whoops.],

Against a backdrop of diminishing hope for a sufficiently strong Framework Agreement at Copenhagen, I found myself disappointed on hearing reports of the Treasurer’s position at the recent meeting of G20 Finance Ministers regarding establishing a fund for technology transfer and mitigation measures for developing countries. These measures are vital if those nations are to avoid industrialization of a form similar to that which we have benefited from in Australia and which has led to us being one of the highest per capita emitters of polluting gases in the world.

The Treasurer’s position on this issue was expressed just days after you made your widely reported, strong attack on climate change deniers. I, and many others, have been heartened by that attack. I have been, unfortunately, disheartened by the Government’s approach to the G20 meeting.

I have already resigned myself to the prospect of Copenhagen delivering no more than each nation agreeing to attempt to meet their own domestically established targets. From what I understand of the views of eminent scientists, this will at best increase the pressure that we all will face in future years to make deeper and more significant cuts in emissions. From what I have read, each year we delay in making such cuts increases the levels to which we must cut in the future.

Prime Minister, the greatest concern to me of such an eventuality is the very low target set at the bottom end of the Government’s 5-25% range. If this range has been proposed on the basis that the Government will accept a higher target so long as this is the result of Copenhagen, but no such agreement seems likely, it would appear that we are destined to only a 5% target in Australia.

Surely we can do better than that?

I appreciate that there are many pragmatic considerations that your Government must take into account. Yet I cannot accept that a target of 5% cuts by 2020 is the best we can do, with or without an international agreement for agreed international targets.

I urge you to consider a target that is at least in the middle of that range: absent a binding agreement to international targets, 15% by 2020 would appear to be a reasonable starting point. It will, I suspect, meet the test of pleasing no-one and thus suggesting that the Government has ‘got the balance about right’.

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