With only 5 negotiating days left before Copenhagen the world faces a monumental challenge at Barcelona. There are a range of potential roadblocks that could scuttle the chances for a strong outcome at Copenhagen, an outcome that the world desperately needs. I believe, however, that the challenges the negotiations face can be overcome with the necessary political will and leadership.
Its Phil here (whom Cara kindly introduced in her last blog), and I will be reporting to you from Barcelona over the week to come.
Barcelona is a fork in the road to Copenhagen. Positive movement in a number of the negotiating streams is absolutely necessary if we are to reach a fair and effective deal at Copenhagen. In one of her previous blogs Cara succinctly outlined the key road blocks that stand in the way of Copenhagen. In summary these are:
- The volume of financing and how it will be raised and spent to assist developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change
- Mitigation targets for developed countries are far lower than the 25% – 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, required to have a good chance at avoiding dangerous climate change
- Will the Kyoto Protocol continue or will it be replaced by a new treaty?
We all know that Australia can do better and must do better in all these areas. Let me make just a few points to put this debate in focus.
In Australia the debate between the major parties on climate change legislation continues. Unfortunately so much of public airtime is taken up by how much we should subsidise polluting industry. Much to my chagrin the only serious conversation being had is around how much more we can give polluters rather than how much less (apparently several billion dollars is not enough).
Even before any emissions trading legislation gets passed, the Australian government already subsidises the coal, oil and gas industries to the tune of around 8 billion AUD per year. This figure is around double the entire overseas aid program and is in a different order of magnitude to what our government is proposing it will contribute to international climate change mitigation and adaptation financing mechanisms (I will save my rant about our government committing and ADDITIONAL 146 BILLION AUD to our defence force for a different post). Australia can afford to offer much much more at Barcelona.
I am not sure how many more times I can hear the government state and the media reiterate the figure 25%. I am sure you all know, but just to set things straight the Australian government is unconditionally offering a 4% mitigation target on 1990 levels by 2020 which equates to carbon dioxide equivalent atmospheric concentration of over 550 ppm. This would be a CATASTROPHIC outcome for the whole planet and its inhabitants. The Australian government has offered a very conditional (conditional upon other countries making commitments which they have not indicated they will) 24% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020. The Government and the Garnaut report on climate change suggests, that in a global agreement this would relate roughly to 450ppm. On this figure, our good friend and eminent NASA scientist James Hanson says:
“A CO2 amount of order 450 ppm or larger, if long maintained, would push Earth toward the ice-free state. Although ocean and ice sheet inertia limit the rate of climate change, such a CO2 level likely would cause the passing of climate tipping points and initiate dynamic responses that could be out of humanity’s control.” Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? James Hansen et al.
Australia must at least make its 24% mitigation target UNCONDITIONAL and put on the table more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets of at least 40% on 1990 levels by 2020.
Now… all these points have been made before, the same connections have been drawn and the same critiques made (and many better ones!). But something is different. Something has changed.
We are witnesses and participants to the most significant global movement, arguably, of all time! There are hundreds of millions, if not billions of people just like us around the globe desperate to see strong action on climate change. Action that protects the earth’s ecosystems and upholds the rights of the poor. In our ever increasing capacity in Australia we must put MORE pressure on the Australian government to actively and cooperatively pursue a fair and just deal on climate change.
I encourage you to read my blogs from Barcelona, make comments, and encourage your community to get on board and participate in the movement that will save the world as we know it.
p.s. I will also be blogging on the Australian sister website ‘A Climate For Change‘
About the authorPhilip Ireland
Phil grew up in Newcastle on the beautiful east coast of Australia. He's deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change on poor communities around the globe, which has shaped a passion for activism around these issues. Phil is a Ph.D. candidate at Macquarie University in Australia.