Mood: on fire
Topic: election Oz 2007
Picture: NASA image of warming globe
'India and China aren't required to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) under the Kyoto Protocol' says PM Howard and Foreign Minister Downer in the big media this last 48 hours. Meanwhile senior minister Mark Vaile panders to climate change deniers altogether.
But this is narrow 'rodent' half truth rhetoric from the Coalition. The Opposition leader Rudd and Garrett have got it right on Kyoto as a framework for leveraging China and India irrespective of unilateral initial targets by the West. For instance consider the other crucial tool not mentioned much in the discussion of treaties - the ability in the local jurisdiction to shut out unwanted products (eg GHG intense Chinese/Indian imports) from lucrative domestic western markets. This is the sovereign power of every Western country just like the ban on kids toys with lead paint, or toxic food, import of endangered animals, or CFCs (see below). Similarly the terms of Kyoto are only the tip of the diplomatic iceberg when it comes geo politik of enforcement of such global environmental reform. Most of the power is not in the treaty, it's in the black list 'here' leveraging our buying power if our Govt is serious about action.
An excellent precedent case of this geo politik dynamic is the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) (see more background here) which covered China and India as developing countries, but only after many years, dragged kicking and screaming to binding ODS targets on products with chemicals like CFCs and HCFCs. The effect of an import barrier on Chinese and Indian ODS intense products into Europe/USA markets focused the thinking of China and India: The West was serious in fixing the ozone hole to save our future. And it worked.
Thus it is the West's overt willingness to go for economic sanctions, or not, that is crucial to China and India accepting binding targets that can also make the Kyoto Protocol work - not binding targets up front per se.
This is why unity of purpose amongst the rich Western markets is critical more so than between rich and poor countries. The latter will follow in due course, as the Howard and Bush cynics well know: The music stops for China and India on GHG intense production when the USA and Europe decides that from a certain time it will not buy. No doubt it does take commitment and courage for the West to pull the developing countries into Kyoto (or similar) Protocol because it causes pain for both the West/USA and China/India
- in economic restructure (we like those cheap goods, they like making them),
- in diplomacy (China and India will be pissed at the upheaval and extra work to make the changes, the West are going to have to subsidise the cost),
- in security (any cheating will cause serious frictions, and enforcement within and across national boundaries of targets won't be fun either) and
- confusion generally (how to regulate let alone educate globally).
In this sense Kyoto to be next considered in Bali, Super Kyoto, or Post Kyoto, are just labels for when in a timing sense the unified West rich markets are really, finally, ready to put real economic pressure on the developing countries: For instance declining all those cheap products in K-mart mostly made in China which may be produced in unacceptable ways. Howard is deceptive to stereoptype the foreign developing countries as holding us back. Rather, go looking for developing country GHG emitters and likely you will find they include us - indirectly as buyers.
The great irony is that the Chinese govt already knows Kyoto or similar must happen, just as the implementation of the Montreal Protocol on ODS was a global training run. The Chinese want the Planet and the human species to survive as much as anyone. The logic of the combined effort on the ozone hole and common sense tells us so. Thus China is developing renewable energy in huge measure - to be ready for the big shift.
All the USA/Australia sabotage of Western unity in the Kyoto Protocol amounts to is pure cynicism - yes make us 'Kyoto energy reform' virtuous, but not yet.Yet the longer we wait the worse it gets like a bad tooth leading to blood poisoning and even death.
Very significantly China and India said it was impossible to reform ODS under the Montreal Protocol in the 1990ies yet they retooled in 5 years after they realised their market was really at risk. It's true GHG is a much much bigger (though partly related reform) compared with phase out of the aggravating ODS but it is even more unavoidable. Cie la vie.
Howard and Downer are playing with words and for time. In fact with Australia such a huge exporter of coal and with Howard's value system about revenue above all else, our PM is talking like he is actually in the shoes of China and India who want as much dirty energy development as possible before the world takes the cure. Howard talks more like a Chinese dictator when it comes to saving the environment, than a western leader. Which is a worrying omen given the very poor environmental situation in China. That's not leadership by Howard, that's intellectual and moral cowardice in the face of scientific reality.
But then Australia under Howard is just proxy for the Bush regime in the USA saying we aren't ready for Kyoto yet. The Bush-Howard regimes are literally playing chicken with science and the future of the Planet and the survival of all species including humanity.
Our Catholic upbringing tells us this dangerous climate change and dithering over solutions is a modern form of Evil that Satan would approve.God's creation deserves better, the fundamental question underpinning this report in the Good Weekend Oct 13 cover story