Monday, December 15, 2008

Oh Rudd, where art thou?

When Kevin Rudd won the Australian election last year, a lot of people were hopeful that he would finally take the serious action on the environment that John Howard refused to. His first act, indeed, was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Protecting nature is a huge issue in a country where there's been a drought since early 2003, called derisively the "Big Dry" by Aussies. (There's been so little rain, even in coastal areas, that when there was a torrential rainstorm on Christmas Day in Sydney a couple of years back people were actually dancing in the streets hoping the end of their torment had come.)

But what Rudd announced today is not only underwhelming but very disappointing. He says that he will only commit to a cut in greenhouse gases by 2020 by only 5% of what the level was in 2000. That number will go up to 15% if, and only if, the world agrees to further emissions cuts. Rudd is also going to go with a carbon "cap and trade" system of emission credits, not unlike what they have in the EU.

There is, to be fair, billions for disaster relief as well as an increase in pensions. But many environmental groups say that a much more aggressive target, say 25%, is needed. One faith-based charity, World Vision, has warned a two degree rise in average world temperatures from where they are right now will push the planet over the edge and that 20% is the bare minimum target that should be set so temps can drop a couple of degrees to back where it was in the 1980s when the present series of weather problems around the world started.

Not surprisingly, the business lobby -- especially the mining industry (it's not just the American coal kings who want to promote "clean coal"!) -- says even 5% goes too far.

Okay, it's a start ... I'll give Rudd that much; certainly better than what Howard ever did. But if he keeps it up on green issues the track he's on right now, he'll be nothing but a socialist version of Stephen Harper here in Canada.

UPDATE (12:29 pm EST, 1729 GMT): The general stream of comments in my e-mail, not here, is that I shouldn't have been surprised. That's not the point. When there's a lack of leadership on a moral issue by the major powers, it's up to middle powers like Canada and Australia to take that leadership. Even Mulroney was far better for the environment than Harper will ever be.

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Anonymous said...

I don't know why you're surprised. The only difference between a right and left wing approach to the environment is that the right doesn't lie about what they are willing to do. While the left blows smoke up our collective asses, the right gets villified for not committing. I'll take the do-nothing over the blow-hard any day.
So long as you guys believe their nonsense they'll continue to dish it to you.

BlastFurnace said...

Not so much surprise as I am disappointed. This is a time for leadership and middle powers of importance like Australia and Canada are looked upon for leadership.