Mar 10, 2005

Howard lacks energy to tackle climate change


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 10 March 2005

Reports the Howard Government will today ask businesses to reveal how much greenhouse pollution they produce shows their complacency over climate change.

This type of reporting, which apparently will be the centrepiece of the Government’s Greenhouse Challenge-Plus program, is something most other developed countries have been requiring of their large energy users for years. It is simply a small catch-up measure by the Howard Government which will have no real effect. Its voluntary nature shows the measure is token.

Greenhouse Challenge-Plus is a recycled and discredited program, which two years ago created a mass walk out by businesses alarmed by the Government’s complacency.

Worst still, when defending his Government’s appalling performance at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, continues to mislead:

“The critics will never admit it, but Australia will reach its Kyoto target on the back of voluntary industry commitments to improve their operations and partnerships that won’t penalise business.” (Source: The Australian, 10/03/04, p2)

Mr Macfarlane is misleading Australians.

According to the Government’s own Greenhouse Office, Australia will meet its Kyoto target because the Queensland and NSW Government legislated to outlaw broad-scale tree clearing – an initiative the Howard Government refused to help fund and which its Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss, said last month was unnecessary.

The one-off benefit delivered by these initiatives conceals significant growth in greenhouse gas emissions in every other part of the economy. For example, emissions from the transport sector are expected to be 60-70% over 1990 levels by 2010.

There is no rational reason for Mr Macfarlane to describe carbon trading as “non-existent and non-tested”. The Government’s scepticism of carbon trading is bizarre.

For example, BP (one of the world’s largest energy suppliers) cut emissions by 18% in just three years and improved its bottom line by $US650m through an internal carbon trading market. Furthermore, BHP Billiton recently won a prestigious award from the European Union for its emissions trading work. Emissions trading is an emerging and potentially very lucrative market for Australia.

Labor’s position on climate change is clear. We would ratify the Kyoto Protocol, introduce an emissions trading scheme and encourage the development of a strong clean energy industry through a strong mandatory renewable energy target.