Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

Howard's latest climate change catch up

Margo: John Howard made this speech yesterday to the Melbourne Press Club, Hyatt Hotel, Melbourne. Roger, how is your review of Scorcher: the dirty politic of climate change going?


Thank you very much Mr President, my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. Today I want to address the issue of climate change in the hope of striking the right balance for Australia. Climate change is a large, complex and serious global challenge that will occupy the world for decades to come. Over time, the scientific evidence that the climate is warming has become quite compelling and the link between emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity and higher temperatures is also convincing.

Australia has long been an active player in the search for an efficient, effective and equitable solution to climate change. Today amongst other things I outline some new measures costing $627 million over the next five years that reinforce our commitment to tackling global warming. Of all the inhabited continents, Australia already has the driest and most variable climate. Climate change means our water security problems will likely intensify, which is why my Government has invested so heavily in national water reform. Our great and unique natural ecosystems, like the Great Barrier Reef, are potentially threatened and many of our major industries, not least agriculture, are highly sensitive to changes in the climate.

Because of our natural abundance of fossil fuels, Australia's economic prosperity is also threatened if our response to climate change is misguided and driven by ideology. All the good intentions in the world are worthless if we wreck our economy for no environmental gain. With so much at stake, we must not confuse panic with virtue. Australia's climate change policy must reflect our unique vulnerabilities and particular economic strengths. It needs to be global, regional, national and local. This challenge, I believe, is best met by a blend of prudent conservatism and economic liberalism. A prudent conservative knows we are but temporary stewards of the environment. The Burkean sentiment that society is a partnership between those who are living, those who are dead, and those yet to be born, is second nature to us.

In the face of risk, a prudent conservative takes insurance. We should, in the words of Rupert Murdoch, give the planet the benefit of the doubt, given the dangers of climate change. A blend of prudent conservatism and economic liberalism has other things going for it. It is realistic about human nature and the pursuit of national interests. It values the power of the market as well as the value of local decision-making, and it knows the limits of state planning and why flexibility must be built into policies and institutions. This mix of prudent conservatism and economic liberalism has steered Australia through more than a decade of successful reform.

Now we must position Australia for a low carbon future. We face a major new reform challenge in designing an emissions trading system and setting a long-term goal for reducing our emissions in the absence of a global carbon scheme. These decisions will be amongst the most important Australia takes in the next decade. They need to be taken carefully and rationally with a clear eye to maintaining our economic strength. Reducing carbon emissions will mean higher energy and petrol prices. Australians need to understand that. Glib calls for drastic, immediate cuts in Australia's emissions might be easy rhetoric but they carry real and potentially large costs. The best way to combat global climate change is to progressively tighten the screws on emissions while encouraging clean technologies for an energy hungry world.

Notwithstanding some of the fear and loathing that has crept into this debate, four fundamental realities remain. First, climate change requires a truly global response. With Australia's contribution to global emissions at less than 1.5 per cent and falling, nothing we do alone will materially affect our climate. Second, we must accommodate demands for economic development, energy security and environmental sustainability. Without all three you are left at best with a two legged stool. Third, different countries will choose different policy approaches. National diversity must be both respected and harnessed. And fourth, the Kyoto Protocol is not an effective blueprint for future action. It provides no pathway for meaningful commitments by the very countries which will account for the bulk of future greenhouse gas emissions. Without a framework that includes all major emitters, we lack a genuine global solution.

There is an acute irony here. The loudest voices on climate change, not least the Australian Labor Party, tend to be those who invest almost mystical powers in multilateral institutions. Yet on this issue they are wedded to an instrument, namely Kyoto, which only 36 of 175 nations are required to do anything to reduce emissions. Clearly, climate change is an immense international challenge. That is why Australia is leading on practical steps like our Global Forests Initiative and the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate. The good news is that mankind has powerful tools for the task ahead, none more so than the spirit of discovery inspired and channelled by rational science and free markets.

Australia brings formidable assets to this challenge: an educated, can-do and adaptable people a modern; flexible economy; world class scientific expertise; deep global engagement and an enviable reputation for institution-building and reform. We have mobilised these assets before and will do so again to help build a new global climate change framework and to facilitate Australia's transition to lower carbon emissions. No great challenge has ever yielded to fear or guilt. Nor will this one. Human ingenuity, directed towards clean technology and wise institutional design, remain our best weapon. The false prophets are those preaching Malthusian pessimism or anti-capitalism. They are the real climate change deniers because they deny rational, realistic and sustainable policy solutions. The moralising tone of utopian internationalism is also not helpful. Institutions will only work and endure if they harness national interests. The world needs less Woodrow Wilson and more Adam Smith to effectively tackle climate change.

Let me remind you on this point that in 1997 the United States Senate voted unanimously 95 to nil against any treaty that did not include major emitting developing countries. Indeed, when the Clinton Administration signed the Kyoto Protocol, it was then Vice President Al Gore who said that the United States could only ratify once and I quote his words, key developing nations participate. The United States has never ratified because the Al Gore condition of that ratification has never been fulfilled. This is a global problem he said that will need a global solution. A decade later nothing has changed to alter that view. I believe that we have reached a new moment of opportunity in this debate after a decade of inflated rhetoric and modest results under the Kyoto protocol. There is now what I regard as an emerging pragmatic consensus on a way forward that includes all major emitters and Australia is helping to forge this consensus.

It is clear that the Kyoto model provides neither a global solution nor a lasting one and that is why Australia supports negotiations on a new global framework. A successful Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Bali, Indonesia in December, will be crucial. We also support international efforts to set by the end of next year a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is in line with our setting a long-term emissions reduction goal for Australia. We will continue to encourage all relevant international efforts to arrive at a lasting global solution. Last month I outlined Australia's plan to use this year's APEC Meeting in Sydney. I see APEC as a major opportunity to bridge continued gaps between developed and developing countries. A comprehensive global mechanism will take years to develop and Australia has decided not to wait for this to emerge and last month I announced that the Government will establish an emissions trading regime for Australia based on a cap and trade model. Our goal is to begin in 2011 subject to relevant design issues being properly completed. One of the first in the Asia-Pacific region, it will be world's best practice.

Today I announce key design features and administrative arrangements for this crucial piece of national economic architecture. The scheme will include maximum practical coverage of emissions sources and sinks, and of all greenhouse gases, a mixture of free allocation and auctioning of single-year dated emissions permits, a safety valve emissions fee designed to limit unanticipated costs to the economy and to business, particularly in the early years of the scheme and recognition of carbon abatement by firms in the lead-up to commencement of the scheme. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will be responsible for implementing this system and it will consult widely with industry and others. Before selecting a long-term emissions goal in 2008 the Government will commission careful modelling of the impact of various targets. We will not do as the Opposition has done, set a target with no analysis of the consequences for Australia and then scramble around ex-post for a study to justify it. This encapsulates Labor's economic inexperience and the risk this poses to Australia's economy.

The Government will establish a team in the Treasury to oversee this modelling and using a range of Australian economic models Treasury will advise the Government amongst other things on the macroeconomic, sectoral and distributional implications for Australia of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It will examine the effects of different abatement targets over selected time periods and thirdly model the effects on key economic indicators including growth, employment, income, and prices - particularly of electricity - with special regard to the impact on households. Australia's long-term emissions target will be both environmentally credible and economically achievable. We will build in flexibility to re-set the emissions trajectory if new scientific information or technologies become available and as the international framework takes shape. This is the smart, sustainable way to set targets.

The Government will also introduce legislation this year for a comprehensive and streamlined national emissions and energy reporting system. We will legislate for a new purpose-built monitoring, reporting and verification system and we will work to remove duplication in reporting requirements on business. Governance will be critical to the integrity of the emissions trading scheme, in particular separating policy functions from operational aspects. From 2009, an independent regulator for emissions trading will be established in the Treasury. Its responsibilities will include allocating and auctioning permits, certifying offsets and ensuring compliance. This emissions trading system will be world class in its coverage and governance. It will avoid the political fixes and economic failures that dogged the initial phase of the European Emissions Trading Scheme. In the years to come, it will provide a model for other nations to follow.

Being among the first movers on carbon trading in this region will bring new opportunities and we intend to grasp them. The Government will examine how to ensure that Australia becomes a carbon trading hub in the Asia-Pacific region. Of course, an emissions trading scheme is only one part of a comprehensive long-term climate change policy framework. There is no magic green bullet. Low-carbon technologies remain the key to an effective response that minimises the costs of limiting emissions. This in turn demands a comprehensive portfolio of clean energy solutions. Removing any one technology from the mix increases the costs of action and makes stabilising global emissions that much harder. Ultimately, technologies must meet the test of the market. There is, however, still a role for government to support research, development and demonstration of low emissions technologies.

Australia has the physical resources, the human capital and the technological strengths to be a global leader in key low emissions technologies. We can be an energy superpower in a carbon constrained future, but only with the right policy settings and only if we draw on all our national capabilities and resource advantages. Abundant reserves of coal, gas, solar energy resources, geothermal potential and the world's largest low-cost uranium deposit provide a natural strategic focus for Australia's clean energy technology policy. Under our Low Emissions Technology Fund the Government has already funded major projects which together involve investments of approximately $3 billion. These include the world's largest and most efficient photovoltaic solar power station and the Gorgon CO2 Injection project which will be the largest geosequestration project in the world.

As a major producer and exporter, Australia has a crucial role to play in clean coal technologies. Renewable energy sources, and our relative strengths in solar, wind and geothermal energy will also be important but the Government also believes that Australia, sitting on almost 40 per cent of the world's low cost uranium reserves, cannot stand aloof from nuclear power. This would be an act of economic and environmental folly in the extreme. Nuclear power has no direct CO2 emissions and is already a significant part of the world's energy system. New generation nuclear energy systems known as Generation IV, promise further advancement in fuel utilisation, cost competitiveness, safety, waste minimisation and ensuring technology and products do not fall into the wrong hands. Today I announce that the Government will invest $12.5 million in a Nuclear Collaborative Research Programme between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO and Australia's university sector. This will augment Australia's ability to participate in the global Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems Initiative.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we all have a role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions which goes beyond the easy morality of gestures. As I've said earlier, our actions must be local, as well as global, regional and national. A strong climate change policy requires a community response, in the same way that water security demands the widest possible community engagement. The Government is committed to encouraging local communities and households to take their own practical action both to lower carbon emissions and to better manage our nation's scarce water resources. We are currently providing up to $12,000 to schools that install solar electric panels and under the Community Water Grants programme at least 1,600 schools have received funding for rainwater tanks. Today I announced that in addition, the Commonwealth will provide up to $50,000 to ensure every Australian school can install a solar hot water system and a water tank. These Green Vouchers for schools will help lift awareness of the challenges future generations face to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to better manage our water. Clearly, the more people change and adapt their own behaviour, the less reliant governments will be on blunt instruments that carry a heavy cost.

Under our Small Business and Household Action Initiative all households will receive information about climate change actions that they can take. They will be able to calculate their carbon emissions and seek to become carbon neutral by purchasing offsets through the Government's Greenhouse Friendly programme. More than 22,000 homes have received or will receive direct support under our Photovoltaic Rebate Programme. The rebate currently available is up to $8000 per home. We have already supported the installation of solar hot water systems in more than 170,000 Australian homes. These Renewable Energy Certificates can be worth up to $900 towards the cost of the solar hot water system. Today I announce some further steps to bring solar hot water within the reach of Australian families. We intend to provide an additional $1,000 per household so that up to another 225,000 homes can upgrade to an energy saving solar hot water system. Water heating is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions from the average Australian home. Now more Australians will have access to Australian solar technologies with the capacity to reduce carbon emissions and to save households about $300 in annual energy costs.

The policies I have announced today bring to $3.4 billion the Commonwealth Government's investment in tackling climate change since 1996. Earlier this year, I described myself as a realist on climate change. Increasingly I'm also an optimist because of the sheer dynamism of 21st century capitalism and the new momentum emerging for a more comprehensive global framework to succeed the Kyoto approach. Stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will require a deep transformation of the world's energy systems. It will be hard, but it is possible. We do not have to sacrifice economic prosperity. We do not have to rethink capitalism, but we do need to engage the community. We do need massive investment in low carbon infrastructure and we do need a far-reaching new phase of economic reform here at home to establish a world-class emissions trading system. One thing is for sure. The world will only unleash the clean technologies of tomorrow and successfully tighten the screws on greenhouse gas emissions against a backdrop of economic strength, and it is only against that backdrop of a strong economy that we can deliver the best environmental outcomes. On that basis Australia can more than play her part. Thank you.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

More weather related havoc.

Britons can blame the heatwave that has scorched eastern Europe over the past month for the deluges that have just wreaked havoc across the country.

Hot air, laden with moisture, has been blown westwards for several weeks. Then, last week, this air collided with a cold weather system from the Atlantic - with downpours bringing flooding across southern England, the Midlands and Wales.

Forecasters blame the area of high pressure that has settled over the Azores. Normally this system extends northwards into southern England in summer, protecting the country from Atlantic rain fronts. But this year the Azores' high pressure area has extended east. 'It currently stretches into Spain, France, Italy and on to Greece and Turkey,' said Met Office forecaster Stewart Wortley.

As we argue the economic cost of reducing GHG emissions, the costs of inaction continue to soar.

The bit you left out

John Pratt, why do consistently give half the story? I lived in the UK from 1932 to 1958 and we always had wild swings in the weather. I remember flooding in Yorkshire when I was at school.

This is the bit you left out.

"The next wettest place in Britain was Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where 126.6mm fell, a sixth of what it would expect for the whole year.

'These falls are high, but they are not the worst on record,' said Met Office forecaster Stewart Wortley. 'The highest rainfall was at Martinstown in Dorset on 18 July, 1955, when 279mm fell.

'These are the sorts of falls we experienced in the past, sometimes every 200 years - they're very extreme,' said Baroness Barbara Young, head of the Environment Agency".

You obviously don't let the facts get in the way of a bit of Labor propaganda.

You also left out the bit where it says the UK Labor Party are not even sure whose portfolio is in charge of relief operations. Sounds a lot like Labor governments in Oz.

Just pointing out the physics

Alan Curran, I was just pointing out the physics. You know more heat, equals more energy. More energy means more havoc. Nothing political in my post, mate. It's science, not politics: unless we take action to cool the planet, we will see more havoc.  Liberal or labor  can't change the physics.

Hybrid cars?

John Pratt: “Forget the Hybrid car, if we are to reduce our GHG footprint, we may need to give up our steaks. How much Australian research is going into this problem? If the world reacts to this problem, in the way they have to the whaling industry, we may see a collapse of our meat industry.”

Are you on a mission to see Australia become the Africa of the Pacific? Is there a successful industry in Australia you would not like to see wiped from the face of the earth? Without seeming to be rude, reading your posts is the equivalent of the anti-good business guide. Maybe the entire nation should begin getting by, begging tourists for loose change (using grass thatched baskets, of course)?

Climate change is coming like it or not.

Paul Morrella, all I am doing is pointing to the future. Climate change is happening, the globe is warming up. How bad it will get is anyone’s guess. I not sure humans will make a difference. Once we have experienced more of the nastier effects of climate change I am sure people will panic. I believe we should be prepared. We should do research into the C02 emissions of cattle – maybe we can reduce the GHG output. Otherwise people will turn away; it will might become a banned substance just like whale meat. Who would have thought at the height of the whaling industry that we would ban whaling? We should be looking for opportunities such as manufacturing more carbon efficient machines, for example hybrid cars. If we don't someone else will. Do you think it is good business practice to look at future trends and be prepared for changes ten or twenty years out? Global warming and our reaction to it is likely to be the biggest trend this century. Prepared or not, it is going to affect us all.

No Point In Dithering

John Pratt:

Without bipartisan agreement on nuclear power,  this would not be worth the paper it is written on. Surely any talk of a deal on nuclear energy should wait until the results of the next election.

The deal I suspect is already done. Things of this nature never take place without bipartisan support, made public or not. This is a very sensible tilt at cornering a market of the future. Australia will not only be there, it will be there dressed in a shiny new suit, irrespective of who leads it. And if this is taking place, under your preferred government, you will be leading the cheer squad. By this time you will have seen the light (hopefully not a green one).

Your Prime Minister’s first duty will be stepping on a plane and hawking your nation's wares for foreign investment dollars. Energy and indeed your minerals will play a large role in the sales pitch. Your Prime Minister’s help on the uranium issue will be waiting to see what the new US Government does about climate change, the excuse of controlling nuclear proliferation, and the UN report regarding nuclear energy.

I would suggest he already knows what is expected of him. Winning elections is one thing, running a successful government an entirely different matter. It pays to have a lot of give, and less take.

Are we ready to change our eating habits?

A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues, which has assessed the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication, and energy consumption.

Forget the hybrid car. If we are to reduce our GHG footprint, we may need to give up our steaks. How much Australian research is going into this problem? If the world reacts to this problem in the way they have to the whaling industry, we may see a collapse of our meat industry. 

wot no hamburgers!

John, being the generous soul I am, I ask that you eat my serve of tofu.

Millions of people looking for new homes because of rising seas

New Scientist reports the latest on sea level rises: 

The (IPCC} report predicted that sea levels worldwide will most probably rise between 21 and 47 cm by 2100, taking the averages of the six scenarios considered. Using the new figures on small glaciers, Meier calculates the rise to be between 27 and 97 cm.

"This is an appreciable adjustment," Meier says. He notes that more than 100 million people live within one meter of the current sea level.

Seaside property will be very cheap over the next few years, as people move up the mountainsides. As Howard fiddles, the water rises. The more scientists learn about the effects of global warming, the worse the nightmare becomes.  

Howards last gasp on nuclear power

AUSTRALIA is negotiating a major deal with the United States to co-operate on development of a nuclear energy industry.

According to draft plans seen by The Age, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane want the deal announced when US President George Bush comes to Australia in September for the APEC leaders' summit.

The deal could advance Prime Minister John Howard's push for Australia to embrace nuclear power, including providing access to the latest technological advances.

Without bipartisan agreement on nuclear power,  this would not be worth the paper it is written on. Surely any talk of a deal on nuclear energy should wait until the results of the next election.

Richard:   That meeting George and John had in Washington last year, just before John went to Canada, was the start of all this.  It all takes time.

Howard and climate change

Howard is just attempting a bait and switch. He is trying to balance the electorate's long-term interests against his short-term interests with Big Oil, Big Gas, Big Mining, Big Coal and Big Industry. Putting off the setting of concrete targets until after the election has the "Howard" touch, as does his claim that Australia is meeting its "voluntary" Kyoto targets through land clearing and re-planting.

As this science piece (RealPlayer) at Caltech indicates, re-growth of forests can take up to 400 years to pay off with a carbon reduction (about 49 minutes in), as the ability of the soil in the forest to absorb the carbon is just as important as the forest re-growth itself. So Howard is fudging the figures already, counting any carbon reductions, which may or may not occur in the far future, today:

John Seinfeld: Global Climate Change
Real Cable: http://today.caltech.edu/theater/19922_cable.ram
Real Broadband: http://today.caltech.edu/theater/19922_bb.ram
Real Modem: http://today.caltech.edu/theater/19922_56k.ram

The real question is whether or not Howard is the man to lead on climate change or not, and whether Costello-to-be would be any better? As the Arabs say: "An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep".


"My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet airplane. His son will ride a camel." – Saudi saying

JH and YouTube on climate

BTW, Crikey has a good little story on JH on YouTube here but if you want to see for yourself and track his "progress" on YouTube go here and type in "John Howard" ... fun to see what happens when the pollies don't understand the world we now live in. More proof of out of date and out of touch.

As always cynical, opportunistic, and disingenuous Howard


Correct. Main thing is that, as always, the only thing Howard cares about is his "vote" - he cares not about the climate, Australia's future, the consequences or the actual dynamics of failure to act, never mind acting decisively. He becomes increasingly irrelevant by the day - bleatings like this non-announcement on "climate change" only make it more apparent. Reaffirms the observation that he is a man who has stale ideas and a fundamental lack of both conviction and courage - even back on the NT kids issue he has been fading to the sidelines and is leaving Mal B to carry the can...typical.

The best thing on immediate climate change would be to see a change of leadership and an end to Howard's hot air!

Russell Darroch

PS And on tracking other previous WD stories, notice today we are at a record $40.2 B on credit card debt . Like climate change, great economic management, NOT.

Morning show

John: Happened to catch a bit of a morning show at my sister's place the other day.  It seems from the presenters' comments some of them had developed a bit of skepticism as a consequence of the Swindle. 

BTW: Today I passed what was one a small wetland of about 100 acres between Canberra and Goulburn. It dried up for the first time in the fifty years I had known it some two years back now. It used to have a lot of birdlife on it. Lake George, (19 miles long and 7 wide - hang this kilometre stuff) is a tragic site. Totally dry despite the rain.

But the little wetland today was full again.  It was just wonderful to see it. Makes a nice change for the Goulburn district I can tell you.

Howard is a coward, with no plan and no target

The ABC shouldn't have to waste scarce taxpayer money propagating pseudo-science, especially when the weight of scientific evidence is dressed up as a left-wing conspiracy by the usual band of right-wing ABC critics.

The main purpose served by the self-described sceptics is to provide a figleaf for cowardly politicians who are prepared to sign up to emission targets for 2050 without explaining how to achieve them.

These same politicians take decisions today, such as approving multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects including freeways, which, if the world is capable of saving itself, will become stranded assets halfway through their economic life, adding to the climate-change burden we have already imposed on our grandchildren.

Howard says "give the planet the benefit of the doubt, given the dangers of climate change."  "Reducing carbon emissions will mean higher energy and petrol prices." "The best way to combat global climate change is to progressively tighten the screws on emissions while encouraging clean technologies for an energy hungry world." " We will not do as the Opposition has done, set a target."

If you fail to set a target, how do you measure your result?  Unless you know where you are going, how do you know when you get there? 

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2006 - 2008, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of Webdiary Pty Ltd.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.

Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner