Mar 3, 2005

9.1 Billion reasons the world needs Kyoto to work


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 3 March 2005

The prediction the world’s population "will rise by 40%" within the next 50 years is a threat to the health of our planet and underscores why we need the Kyoto Protocol to work.

On top of the 600% population increase of the past 200 years, the United Nation’s Population Division expects the world’s population to rapidly rise from 6.5 billion to 9.1 billion by 2050, with almost all of this growth occurring in developing countries.

The most significant challenge confronting governments in industrialised countries is to protect the planet’s environment and biodiversity while maintaining the living standards we take for granted. This task simply gets harder with an ever growing global population.

To appreciate the magnitude of this challenge, you only need consider the 2 billion people who still do not have access to reliable power supply.

Connecting these people to conventional sources of electricity (i.e. power plants using fossil fuels such as coal) would lead to a catastrophic increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and would substantially increase the likelihood of abrupt climate change.

To help overcome this challenge, the Kyoto Protocol includes the "Clean Development Mechanism" which allows an industrialised country to partly meet its binding target under the Protocol by paying for projects that cut or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. Already 30 such projects are at the advanced planning stage.

The Kyoto Protocol is not perfect. But in the interests of our children and grandchildren all industrialised countries must commit to making the Protocol work.

We cannot escape the fact that the world’s current population level is already having an alarming impact on the health of our planet:

  • More than half the world’s major rivers are seriously depleted and polluted; three-quarters of fisheries stocks are exploited at or above maximum capacity and several have already collapsed due to over-fishing (World Commission on Water);
  •  Forests are being cut down at a rate of 9 million hectares a year, equivalent to losing 2.4% of the total forest area each year;
  •  The destruction of habitat due to urbanisation and the clearing of forests for farmlands is endangering animal life. The World Conservation Union believes the current extinction rate may be 100 to 1,000 times the natural rate, unprecedented since the end of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. A quarter of all mammals are on the brink of extinction;
  •  Temperature change: Since the beginning of the industrial revolution average global surface temperatures have risen by 1 degree Celsius – the most dramatic rise in over 1,000 years.

It’s time for Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and be part of the global response to climate change and global population growth.