December 22nd 2012

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Articles from this issue:

FRONT COVER: Picture Credit

EDITORIAL: Hard landing likely for Australia's economy

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Julia Gillard's survival strategy for the New Year

WATER POLICY: Disastrous Murray-Darling Basin Plan is now law

ENVIRONMENT: Australia signs up for Doha cash grab

EDUCATION: Kirby attacks state aid to non-government schools

AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY: The left's long march through Australia's institutions

LABOUR RELATIONS: How to make unions accountable to members

POLITICS: The challenges that await Australia in the New Year

ENERGY: US to achieve energy independence in 15 years

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Time to reappraise the Washington Consensus?

OBITUARY: International advocate for family values dies

CINEMA: Well-crafted tale about an ageing pro

BOOK REVIEW A divided calling

BOOK REVIEW Atheist philosopher now sceptical about Darwin

POEM: Enlightened Willie's Prayer

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Australia signs up for Doha cash grab

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, December 22, 2012

In Doha, the Australian government has signed up to a UN-sponsored cash grab for Australia and some other developed countries to bankroll environmental programs in the Third World, and also to an extension of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions — at a time when the United States, China, India and several developed nations which signed the original Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s have pulled out.

The Doha conference, the 18th international climate change conference conducted under the auspices of the United Nations since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, was attended by delegations from 125 countries, including Australia.

Doha is a curious place to host such a conference, as its per capita emissions of CO2 are among the highest in the world. Additionally, despite the UN’s best efforts, global CO2 emissions have risen 60 per cent since the base year for emissions targets, 1990.

The 18th Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention was hopelessly divided on what is to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol, negotiated in 1997 and ratified in 2005, set the key targets of the UN Climate Convention. It established binding emission reduction targets for 37 industrialised countries (including Australia and the European Community) in its first commitment period. Overall, these targets add up to an average five per cent emissions reduction compared to 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008 to 2012.

Since then, negotiations have become bogged down on whether developing nations such as China and India should be bound by emissions targets. India has flatly refused to agree, saying that it depends on expanded use of fossil fuels to lift the standard of living of its 1.2 billion people.

China has also refused, saying that, as increased CO2 emissions had been caused by the developed Western world, the West should be responsible for addressing the problem.

Because of the increased use in the developing countries of fossil fuels — coal, natural gas and petroleum — the overall level of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase, although claims that CO2 causes rising global temperatures are contradicted by the fact that since 1998 global temperatures have not increased.

At the Doha conference, developing countries demanded that Western nations sign up to deeper cuts in CO2 emissions, after the Kyoto Protocol’s first round of pledges expires at the end of the year. Australia and the EU nations are among the few which have signed up for this.

They also demanded that the developed world commit to a new funding package from 2013 to help them cope with worsening droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels.

Australia also signed up to this.

In the United States, President Obama, despite his rhetoric on climate change during his acceptance speech, refused to ratify the Kyoto Convention in 2009, when he had a Democrat majority in both houses of the US Congress.

Today, he faces a Republican-controlled House of Representatives which will never agree to setting CO2 targets — particularly at the instigation of a UN agency.

With the US facing a “fiscal cliff” arising from excessive government expenditures in the past, there is no chance that the US will commit to increasing funding for developing countries to mitigate climate change.

In Western Europe, the countries of the EU were the driving force behind the UN Climate Change Convention in the 1990s, and remain its strongest supporters.

But with the eurozone crisis, and threatened defaults in Greece and Spain, there is no money available for expanded climate change projects.

Additionally, the European Union’s own emissions trading scheme (ETS) — the centrepiece of the plan to cut emissions in Western Europe — is close to collapse.

The cap-and-trade scheme, launched in 2005, caps carbon dioxide emissions from factories and power-plants in the 27-nation bloc, forcing them to buy carbon permits if they exceed the limit.

However, so many free permits were issued that the scheme has twice faced collapse, only to be restructured by the European Commission.

Now the ETS faces collapse again, as a result of the economic crisis in Europe, which has pushed down the price of carbon permits to just €5.89 ($7.36), compared to $23 paid by large energy-users in Australia under the Gillard government’s carbon tax.

With an abundance of free permits available to existing industry, combined with falling prices for coal and gas, there is little demand for the European permits.

The Doha Conference agreement which Australia has signed will have no measurable effect on greenhouse gas emissions, but may cost Australian taxpayers billions of dollars — to enhance the Gillard Government’s green credentials in the run-up to the next federal election. 

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