Climate change debate heats up

ALL OF Australia’s major polluting sectors, including agriculture, must be included in any scheme to reduce carbon emissions, according to the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO).

At a public information session held in Ballina this week, EDO Northern Rivers education officer Mark Byrne said there were alternatives to the Federal Government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

The legislation is due to go before Parliament for the third time this month.

“Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the Copenhagen Accord, agreeing to hold the increase in global temperature below two degrees Celsius,” Mr Byrne said.

“Yet he supports a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme that will, in effect, do nothing.

“The Australian Government’s unconditional target is for a 5 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020, relative to the 1990 level.

“However, to meet our commitment under the Accord, Australia would probably need to cut emissions by at least 25pc by 2020.”

Also speaking at the session in Ballina was EDO policy officer Robert Ghanem, who was in Copenhagen last year.

He said the summit’s failure to achieve a legally binding agreement was disappointing.

Mr Ghanem said the accord was only ‘politically binding’.

“A lot of people blame China, but that’s not entirely fair – they have lower emissions per capita than countries in the developed world,” he said.

“But the negotiations go beyond climate change; it’s a global battle on which country will be the next super power.”

EDO senior solicitor, Sue Higginson, said much of the legal argument surrounding climate change was about ‘intergenerational equity’.

“There are mitigation cases, which deal with the impacts of development on climate change, and adaptation cases, which deal with the impacts of climate change on development.

“Ecologically sustainable development principles are what we have at the moment for our judges to hang their hats on.

“But the court is a very slow institution; it’s a very conservative institution. It can be very disheartening.”

THE COPENHAGEN ACCORD

  • Limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius.
  • It will provide $30 billion over the next three years to help poor countries adapt to climate change.
  • As of February 5, more than 90 countries had submitted emissions reduction pledges.


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