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Global grandstanding while sandbagging coal won't protect the climate

Reports today that the Rudd Government looks to be preparing to increase handouts to the coal sector as part of a CPRS deal with the Coalition make a mockery of Mr Rudd's grandstanding on the global stage.

While progress appears to be being made towards agreement, both at a global and domestic level, both sets of negotiations seem headed for craven political compromises that will allow governments and industry to continue with the status quo instead of taking the kind of bold action the science clearly requires.

"An agreement to fail is far worse than a failure to agree," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

Senator Milne's comments echo those by former British Government Chief Scientist, Sir David King, and Lord Nicholas Stern, who told the Financial Times yesterday that it would be better to postpone negotiations this year than risk locking in a weak deal that 'would be difficult to unravel'.*

"It beggars belief that the government is apparently listening to the calls for yet more handouts to the coal sector to protect their asset value.

"The entire purpose of an emissions trading scheme is to change the investment environment away from supporting polluters and towards supporting new, zero emissions industries.

"Protecting the asset values of polluters directly undermines the signal that the emissions trading scheme is supposed to send. It would be far better to postpone adoption of a scheme than to have one that actively protects polluters at the expense of clean-tech industries.

"Similarly, as Sir David King and Lord Stern said, it would be far better that no global climate deal is reached this year than that a deal is reached that locks in failure on the climate crisis.

"A failure to agree this year at least leaves the chance of an effective deal next year.

"Far from being the global hero he portrays himself as, Mr Rudd is clearly helping reduce the level of global ambition with his inexcusably weak targets, his polluter handouts and his plan to undermine the scientific credibility of the deal, with no clear targets for the developing world.

"While developing countries are entitled to do far less than rich polluters like Australia, it is vital that the treaty sets a clear, measurable global carbon budget, not just a wish-list.

"It is a tragedy that Mr Rudd's 25% upper limit for emissions reductions is becoming the de facto upper limit for global negotiations. No scientist would tell you that this gives us any hope of preventing climate catastrophe."

* The quotes from King and Stern are available at the Financial Times website here:

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