John Howard’s continual references to China as a reason for not signing Kyoto has finally drawn a response.
It is up there with John Howard’s greatest deceptions. Australia, we are told, has refused to sign on to the Kyoto protocol because it does not make demands of China or India in respect of emissions.
The Prime Minister neglects to advise Australians that we are, on a per capita basis, the worst greenhouse polluters on the planet. The average Australian is responsible for greenhouse emissions many times greater than that of the average Chinese or Indian.
It’s taken longer than one would have expected but the Chinese have finally had a gutful of this dodgy defense of Australia’s refusal to sign up to Kyoto. Last week, a Chinese delegate at the United Nations conference on climate change in Nairobi, took a swipe at Australia’s position pointing out that with a population 65 times that of Australia, China’s emissions would naturally exceed those of Australia. He also pointed out that greenhouse damage would be dramatically higher if China’s per capita output matched that of Australia.
There are two reasons why developing nations have been free of Kyoto’s targets to date. One is that on a per capita basis, developing nations are still massively behind the developed world in current emissions. The other reason is that serious greenhouse damage has been accumulating over the past century and industrialised nations have been the culprits. So developing nations are reasonably being given some latitude before being required to adhere to strict emissions targets. It won't stay that way of course and nobody has ever intended it should.
Economic prosperity will also ultimately be a facilitator of greenhouse emission reductions in the developing world.
Australia’s position on climate change is ugly not only because of our excessive per capita greenhouse gas emissions. We are also a major exporter of greenhouse inducing resources. So not only do we have an appalling per capita record on greenhouse emissions, we are also deriving significant economic benefit from other country’s addiction to greenhouse gas producing energy. We are simultaneously the world’s worst greenhouse junkies and dealers. Not a proud record.
Australians appear ready to take action to address this situation. Their efforts are obstructed by a Prime Minister who continues to deceive and reject joint international efforts on climate change. There are signs that even the Prime Minister is turning. He has for some months now been attempting to refashion himself as Mr Green. This week he also asserted the right of the Chinese to pollute at liberty clearly feeling uneasy about their earlier rebuke. Fortunately for the world, the Chinese are taking a more proactive and multilateral position on climate change than Australia. Shame.