Enormous climate fig leaf

Feature story - 1 August, 2005
Top climate bad guys, the US and Australian governments, have unveiled their own shiny new pact to allegedly save the climate. Our climate guru Stephanie Tunmore exposes the announcement for what it really is.

Smoke stacks of the Mae Moh coal power plant. Coal power stations emit huge amounts of pollution including gasses like CO2 which cause global warming. The 'US - Asia Pacific Pact' does nothing to tackle such emissions.

The US, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea - all workingtogether to tackle climate change and save the planet?  Sounds likegood news!

At first glance the new 'US -Asia Pacific Pact' would seem an encouraging development. It is clearthat avoiding the very worst of climate change means rapidly developingcountries like China and India will need to start 'decarbonising.' Andgiven the US and Australia's previous refusal to take any meaningfulaction to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, isn't it a good thingthat all of these countries have signed up to the pact?


Well the key word here is 'meaningful.' On further investigation theagreement has no targets for emissions reductions, no timetables ordeadlines, in fact it doesn't even mention emissions reductions - oh,and it's completely voluntary. In fact it looks like nothing more thana trade agreement on energy technology.

In a perfect worldeven this could result in better energy efficiency and renewable energytechnologies for developing countries but experience tells us that thetechnologies that most interest the US and Australia are the 'magicbullet' ones that claim to reduce emissions whilst allowing thecontinued burning of fossil fuels.

Take "carbon capture and storage" for instance; the 'suck it out of thesky and stick it under arock' approach. This process promises to trap CO2 from the burning offossil fuels and store it in the sea or under the Earth's surface. Evenifit delivers it won't be ready for at least 15-20 years, it willincrease the cost of power generation, reduce the efficiency of powerplants and require long-term monitoring to make sure the CO2 stays put.

Whilst money is diverted into these future technologies in a bid tocontinue business as usual, proven renewable and energy efficiencytechnologies that are ready to use now lack investment from bothgovernments and industry.


Which leadsus to motivation. The US and Australia have both refused to ratify theKyoto Protocol, the one existing international agreement on dealingwith climate change. They have spent years trying to undermine andderail the treaty on the basis that developing countries don't havetargets so it is unfair.

It is obvious to everyone, including the 152 nations that have

ratified Kyoto, that industrialised countries that got rich through theuse of fossil fuels have a responsibility to act first to correct theproblem.

The average American uses more electricity in twoweeks than the average person in India uses in a year. US emissionshave increased by 16 percent since 1990 and are projected to be 32percent above 1990 levels in by 2012. Australian emissions from energyare projected to be 66 percent above 1990 levels by 2020 and its percapita emissions are 6 times as high as China.

Developingcountries will not be motivated to adopt targets whilst the world'sbiggest CO2 emitter and the world's biggest per capita emitter sitcomfortably on their hands and refuse to act.

The obviouscourse of action would be to ratify Kyoto and get on with reducingtheir emissions. Instead we get this disingenuous attempt to financeminor changes abroad whilst doing nothing at home, with the cleverlittle side effect, focussing as it does on so-called "clean coal"technology, of securing new coal markets for export.

This is a fig leaf of enormous proportions - but it fails to hide anything.

StephanieTunmore initially started working in the peace movement in the 80'sbefore joining Greenpeace in 1989.  Since 1996 she has worked onclimate issues, leading campaigns against BP and Exxon'sclimate-wrecking policies.

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