Garnaut’s 10% by 2020 ‘target’ is surrender to vested interests

5 09 2008

[UPDATE:] A note on the title & theme [I decided to rename it]. Yes, I was mighty angry and upset when I wrote this. That hasn’t diminished. But I do accept that shaking one’s fist and screaming to the wind doesn’t achieve terribly much; doesn’t get the message out. So from here in I will redirect that anger and, I hope, passion, towards working in whatever capacity I can offer to see this ethically bankrupt target does not come to pass. 12:33 08/09/2008

While the Arctic disappears literally before our eyes [and 2008 may yet eclipse 2007 for least sea ice extent], somehow Australia is special?! What is this nonsense about immigration rates?! Where is the assessment of abatement options relative to our vast RE resources?! Where is any semblance of a sense of responsibility for our actions or the urgency of the need for wholesale change? And 1.6% reduction in GDP is too much to bear is it? You’ve screwed us Garnaut, completely screwed us.

In his report on the carbon trading scheme, he says Australia is a special case and its emissions should be reduced by less than any other developed country.

Australia’s high level of immigration, he says, meant it cannot realistically cut emissions as much as other wealthy nations. [I’ve yet to read the details of the Supplementary Draft myself]

I’m a hair’s breadth from completely losing hope that catastrophic climate change has any chance of being avoided now.

I can’t get past the incredibly pathetic 10% recommendation — in so doing, Garnaut has almost completely undone his excellent work in calling for lack of permit grandfathering, the proper inclusion of transport/petrol, a worthwhile proportion of revenues reinvested in RE R&D, and the need for trajectory targets to be inline with the science.

Obviously I have a lot of reading to do (for my dissertation), but I’ve honestly never even heard of this population-growth card. I find it breathtaking that a country of a mere 21 million — with the highest per-capita emission levels in the developed world — can even say such things with a straight face. Put immigration aside, what of the population growth in India or China?? It’s insanity.

Garnaut has just crawled into bed with the likes of the BCA. Again, not having read the report yet (and I dont have the skills to critique the modelling anyway) but it strikes me that Ross Gittins is again bang on the money when he said that ‘… all modelling is only as good as the assumptions on which it rests. And you can get pretty much any result you want by choosing the right assumptions’ [SMH]


Senator Christine Milne really nails the ludicrous nature of this report’s conclusions:

Suggesting a model of linear convergence towards 2050, Garnaut argues that we rich Australians should get to keep polluting more than everyone else until 2050. We Australians, who have become rich thanks to our high historic pollution levels, should get to keep polluting more per capita than some of the world’s poorest people in India and China, for another 42 years. We Australians, who have done nothing for the last decades, should be rewarded for our recalcitrance by an easy path all the way through to 2050, while the Europeans, Japanese and others, who have made big steps in energy efficiency and renewable energy, should be punished.

The rest of the world will see through that immediately. It will be seen as a special pleading that will “inhibit effective international agreement”.


List of institutions and scientists rejecting Garnaut’s trajectories as flawed:

Australia can affordably achieve carbon emission cuts of at least one third by 2020. Economists McKinsey & Co estimate that cuts by one third would cost Australian families at less than $1 a day. However, the longer we stall and the weaker our target, the more it will cost our kids, our economy and our environment.

Garnaut’s target is too modest and we should be aiming much higher if we want to have a credible position in the international debate post-Kyoto.

… “We should be setting an example to the world of what can be achieved, not pleading for special treatment”

‘This is the Government’s chief climate change advisor suggesting Mr Rudd write a death warrant for the Great Barrier Reef, the Kakadu National Park, and our international reputation’, Greenpeace head of campaigns Steve Campbell said.

The Climate Institute today called on the Government to reject the Garnaut Review’s soft 2020 emissions reduction targets which, if adopted, would effectively forfeit the chances of achieving the 450ppm global solution that Garnaut himself admits is in Australia’s best interest.

“Accepting the recommended 2020 targets of 5 or 10% reductions would strip Australia of international credibility in global climate talks and, if followed by other major polluters, would lock us into a highly dangerous world of climate change,” said John Connor, Climate Institute CEO.

So the key to unlock this ‘diabolical problem’ is to focus on the energy technologies, as urgently as humanly possible. Design a capital works programme, lead by a forward-looking government, to start laying out solar thermal, wave, wind, geothermal and microalgal biodiesel liquid fuels on a massive scale. Define a REAL 2020 goal, such as to have 80% of Australia’s power met by renewables by 2020, instead of some abstract target that is reliant on an unenforceable multilateral global agreement which will never eventuate.

Prove up the technologies here in Australia, with extreme urgency and dedication, and pass on that know-how and innovation to the world. Show that it can be done, and not only that, show that it is not difficult to do and that costs fall rapidly as learning-by-doing proceeds. Even with current tech developments, all of Australia’s power needs could be met by a solar thermal array carpeting a 50 x 50 km square of outback desert. This is possible, not hypothetical.

“It appears … that he is taking an approach which is politically and economically palatable or acceptable, rather than taking the opportunity which we have perhaps once in this century to take bold action, for Australia to take a leading role in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

“It would probably send a message that Australia does not want to seriously consider or address the fact that it has the highest greenhouse gas emissions in the world, and would probably send a message that Australia is not serious on addressing greenhouse climate change and its very high emissions.

“He appears to be putting the problem in the politically ‘too hard’ basket and taking a weak or easy option, leaving it to other countries and other generations to solve the problem.

And SMH reports statements from Karoly, Bill Hare, and Amanda Lynch:

Speaking separately, Bill Hare, David Karoly and Amanda Lynch – all authors with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – criticised Professor Garnaut’s recommendations, describing them as inconsistent, disappointing and wrong.

All believe Australia, as the developed country expected to be worst hit by climate change, should be aiming for a cut in emissions of 25 per cent to 40 per cent by 2020.

WWF-Australia chief executive Greg Bourne said Australia would be “laughed out of court” if it turned up to global negotiations proposing a cut of less than 20%.


Other commentary:

… in a disturbing conclusion, Garnaut says he does not believe the majority of countries and their vested interests are ready to heed this warning. And so he recommends that Australia should pursue, for now, a global agreement that almost certainly, according to his best scientific advice, risks the very catastrophic consequences he has so painstakingly outlined.

And even more disturbingly is the woeful status of Australian energy supplies with respect to other developed world economies. Wilkinson neatly highlights that our coal dependency is as much the result of government policy and decision as any market force.

Among Garnaut’s bleak statistics is that the greenhouse gas emissions load in Australia’s electricity supply is 98 per cent higher than in the average developed OECD country. That puts us just ahead of countries like Cuba, Cambodia and Kazakhstan in the production of “clean” electricity – the legacy of our reliance on black and brown coal for three-quarters of our electricity supply. Indeed, our energy supply is one of the most greenhouse-gas-intensive in the world. Only North Korea, Estonia, Mongolia, Bosnia and Poland are worse, according to Garnaut’s July report.

Confronted with these comparisons, the head of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, Mike Hitchens, responded: “That’s just a fact of history; we have a lot of coal.”

But, as Garnaut reveals, it is not a fact of history. Less than two decades ago, our greenhouse profile looked pretty similar to the average OECD country. But when other advanced countries turned away from coal to cleaner fuels, Australia embraced it as a cheap energy source, especially for aluminium smelting.

… [Hare] said Professor Garnaut had taken the wrong approach: he should have made a case for a strong global deal, not give a political assessment. [emphasis added]



2 responses

6 09 2008
Andrew Glikson

From 5 September, 08

Dr Andrew Glikson from the Research School of Earth Science at the Australian National University sent a brief submission to Crikey yesterday. It crunches some sobering numbers:

According to leading US climate and paleo-climate scientists, the current CO2 levels of 387 ppm (433 ppm CO2 + CH4 equivalent) are dangerously close to the 450 ppm CO2 level at which the polar ice sheets formed 34 million years-ago. This projection is consistent with the current fast ice melt rates in the Arctic Sea, Greenland and west Antarctica, including melting of the Wilkins ice shelf last July — one of the first times mid-winter ice shelf breakdown was observed.

The sensitivity of the atmosphere has been underestimated. Ice core studies of the Pleistocene (1.8 Ma to 11,700 years-ago) glacial-interglacial cycles display abrupt global warming and cooling events on time scales of few years to decades, including sharp climate tipping points at 14,700, 12,900 and 11,700 years-ago.

IPCC climate projections and plans for emission caps restricting temperature rises to two or three degrees and time tables for carbon emission reduction targets such as 15 percent by 2020 or 60 percent by 2060, take little account of the rates of ice sheet melt/water feedbacks loops and carbon cycle feedback loops, including release of methane hydrates from sea bottom sediments and from bogs. Plans for climate stabilization at 450 ppm may not be able to prevent melting of the polar ice sheets. Plans for stabilization at 650 ppm may not be able to stop runaway greenhouse effects and associated extinctions.

Today Ross Garnaut has reduced expectations of Australian climate change action to a point below which anyone other than Andrew Bolt and a handful of suddenly sweating penguins could object. According to Garnaut, the best we can hope for is substantial international cooperation and an aspirational atmospheric carbon target of 450ppm.

550ppm is more likely and looks like being the mark the Australian Government will pursue. This constitutes surrender … politically, to the forces that will rage against any diminution of their capacity to dig, burn, export and boil, and environmentally to the silent but more deadly forces that by scientific consensus are placing our eco-system in almost irreparable peril.

The Garnaut targets mooted today are as clear an indication as any that our political process seems incapable of delivering the stern medicine required to arrest climate change, even under the stewardship of a government elected with a clear mandate to act. They acknowledge that we will always move first to pursue comfort and compromise. It looks, sadly, as though we will do that to our cost.

3 07 2009
Justin Wood

I don’t think I noticed that Australian climatoligist Andrew Glikson himself (if that is in fact him) posted that comment above! I’m sure my page was only found due to its backlinks to the articles/blogs above, but still – honoured!

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