Jan 26, 2005

Blair leads on climate change


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 26 January 2005

The speech made overnight by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to the World Economic Forum in Davos displayed the international leadership and urgency required if we are to avoid the catastrophic impacts of human-induced climate change. Mr Blair’s firm conviction and clear vision stands in stark contrast to the irresponsible complacency of the Howard Government.

I welcome Mr Blair’s commitment to making climate change a priority during his presidency of the G8 Group of industralised nations. These nations account for 47% of global cardon dioxide emissions – the primary cause of climate change.

Through his presidency of this important economic body Mr Blair will seek to unite the G8 economies, including the United States, in action that would deliver signficant cuts in emissions through the implementation of a package of “practical measures”.

As Mr Blair bluntly told Forum delegates:

“My clear view … is that the debate will be how and on what time scale [climate change] is confronted, not whether.”

Labor full agrees with this conclusion – human-induced climate change is happening. What does remain in doubt, however, is whether today’s political and business leadership are going to rise to challenge or whether they are simply going to leave the problem to future generations.

Mr Blair’s injection of fresh political will and leadership into ongoing efforts to build a “new global consensus” for tackling climate change is extremely timely.

Just last week a report compiled by a panel of respected experts, the International Climate Change Taskforce, warned that the global community has less than a decade to avert catastrophic climate change. A failure to act is likely to result in widespread droughts, crop failures, rising sea levels, water shortages and irreversible damage to the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon rainforest.

The Howard Government’s refusal to show leadership at home or be part of international efforts to combat climate change is not only bad environmental policy, but also bad for the Australian economy.

By not being part of the Kyoto Protocol – due to come into force on 16 February 2005 – Australian businesses are denied access to a multi-billion dollar carbon emissions trading scheme and the opportunity to participate in the development of alternative energy technology.

Tackling climate change must not only be seen as an environment issue, but also as an economic opportunity. If Australia is to grasp these opportunities, the Howard Government must follow the lead set by the British Prime Minister.