April 2010


Today the Rudd Government backed away from implementing their emissions trading scheme (the CPRS) until 2013, making a carbon price in Australia before then very unlikely. The CPRS had many flaws, but was far superior to there being no carbon price at all, and could have been changed later. The Rudd government was facing difficulties getting a carbon price through parliament, but there were two ways that it could have done so:

  • It could have negotiated with the Greens to implement an interim carbon tax, while the details of an emissions trading scheme are worked out later;
  • If could have used the CPRS legislation as the trigger for a double dissolution election, in which case the legislation could be put before a joint sitting of both houses of parliament.

Instead the government has decided that they dont want climate change to be an election issue, and the Prime Minister has hardly mentioned climate change in the past 3 months. This contrasts very strongly with his rhetoric last year. At Copenhagen, he gave a speech where he said:

When I arrive home at the end of this week, will I be able to sit down, look my children in the eyes and tell them in clear conscience that I did absolutely everything I could to achieve action to avoid dangerous climate change.

Because if we cannot, then we will have failed in our basic duties as leaders of our nations, as fathers and mothers of our children and custodians of our nations’ future.

The children of the world are watching.

They are listening.

And history will be the judge of each of us here today.

Now that the Copenhagen meeting is over, does this mean that history will no longer be judging our action on climate change? Will Kevin Rudd be able to look his children in the eye and say “I did absolutely everything I could to achieve action to avoid dangerous climate change”? History may well judge that Kevin Rudd has jumped the shark today.

Kevin Rudd has said (in defense of postponing the CPRS)
“The rest of the world is being slower to act on appropriate action on climate change.
“It’s very plain that the correct course of action is to extend the implementation date.”
In her paper ‘A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change’. Policy Research Working Paper 5095. World Bank., Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom said:
Given the severity of the threat, simply waiting for resolution of these issues at a global level, without trying out policies at multiple scales because they lack a global scale, is not a reasonable stance.

Ostrom has made it clear why it is unreasonable for individual countries to wait for the rest of the world.

UNFCCC climate change negotiations have resumed in Bonn. Between April 9 – April 11, meetings are occurring for both the ad-hoc working group for long-term cooperative action under the convention (AWG-LCA), and the ad-hoc working group on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). These working groups have been tasked with completing the Bali action plan by the COP 16 meeting in Cancun, Mexico. Some of the Bonn meetings are webcast here. According to the UNFCCC website:

The first sessions of the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA in 2010 will focus on the organization of work of both working groups this year, including the need for additional meeting time, with a view to reaching a successful conclusion of their work at COP 16 /CMP 6 in Cancun.

Several issues have played a significant role so far:

  • There is a proposal that the Secretariat draft a new next that would draw on both the LCA text from last year, and the Copenhagen Accord. The other option would be to continue negotiating on the old text. If there was a new text, it would be released before some negotiations in June. At the time of writing, it seems like a new text is being opposed by Bolivia, Venezuela, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
  • Countries are staking out (and to a certain extent re-iterating) the positions. Some non-Annex I parties have emphasised the importance of the Kyoto Protocol, and that Annex I parties to the Kyoto Protocol should have stronger commitments, and that loopholes involving permit carryover and LULUCF accounting should be addressed.
  • Russia stated that negotiations should be more efficient; countries should not use up time by repeating their positions; and negotiations should not take place at night, so that negotiators could get some sleep (this particular point received applause).
  • An issue for discussion is the number of meetings, some suggestions for two additional meetings.
  • The US stated made a statement that included the following points: Copenhagen was a remarkable breakthrough because: an agreement to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees; a framework where countries can list their actions or targets; a framework for transparancy; finance commitments; technology; adaptation; and REDD. But there was not much progress in the formal negotiations on the ‘crunch issues’, over 100 pages of brackets. But heads of state achieved things that the formal process could not. The accord should materially influence negotiations. Support chairs proposal to draft new text.
  • Ghana stated that Annex I parties should fund the extra meetings and fund the participation of two participants from each non Annex I party.
  • In order to simplify the negotiations, and make them more inclusive, the chairs of each working group have proposed to create a single contact group corresponding to each working group.
  • Papua New Guinea has called for ministers to meet in order to provide political direction, and when progress is made, then negotiators should meet and integrate progress into the negotiating text.
  • Other negotiators, including the Phillipines, have said that the process should be ‘party driven’ in order to avoid the ‘mistakes of Copenhagen’.