Op Ed colum, and Gough Whitlam’s death

by ray goodlass

The publishing of my Op Ed column in the Daily Advertiser today about Abbott’s attempts to stifle discussion of climate change at the forthcoming G20 conference in Brisbane was overshadowed by the news of Gough Whitlam’s death. His victory in the 1972 election ushered in a much more socially just Australia, and his government’s progressive legislation was undoubtedly a key reason for my decision, as a recent ‘Ten pounds Pom’, to stay in Australia and become a citizen. Vale Gough.

Here’s the text of the Op Ed column:

Captain Abbott on the wrong side of history about climate change?

Despite much of the media being seduced by the prospect of Captain Abbott ‘shirt fronting’ Russian President Putin at the forthcoming G20 meeting in Brisbane in November the real significance of that conference is on much more profound issues than two ‘bovver boys’ with excessive testosterone having a ‘bit off a bif’.

Of course it would be wonderful if a ‘robust discussion’ between the PM and the President did produce an admission of Russian complicity over the shooting down of MH 17, but the conference will focus on much more important matters.

On one of the more profound issues to be discussed the Australian Prime Minister is more than likely to find himself on the wrong side of history, for in Brisbane he will have few international delegates agreeing with his comment that “Climate change is absolute crap” (The Australian 12 December 2009)

However, climate change will be discussed actively in Brisbane, despite Abbott’s insistence that it be listed only as “energy efficiency”. But he’ll only have the support of fellow sceptic and absentee at Obama’s fore-mentioned leaders’ summit, Canada’s Stephen Harper.

US and European leaders want it thoroughly discussed. “Mr Obama’s international adviser at the White House, Caroline Atkinson, said the G20 economies generated 80 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions and should give a political push to ‘specific steps’ to reduce global warming,” The Australian Financial Review reported last week.

To date the Government has justified its stance by defending a paltry commitment to a 5 per cent cut by 2020 on year 2000 levels. This is already way out of date, for on top of whatever emerges from the G20, the international community will meet in Lima in December to discuss progress towards post 2020 emissions reductions targets.

The big players, the US, EU, and China, are preparing to set those targets in the first quarter of 2015 as they move towards the major climate change summit in Paris in December, reports Mark Kenny (Sydney Morning Herald, 17 October.

For Australia to meet its share of that based on our size, that means emitting no more than 8 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050 – the trouble is, on present emissions, we get to that by 2030. It is just more evidence of the parallel reality in which Australia is living.

Abbott began last week talking about coal as “essential for the prosperity of Australia and … the prosperity of the world … for many decades to come”.

Perhaps, but he may end his first term talking about much stronger action on climate change whether he likes it or not after Brisbane, Lima, and Paris.

At least let’s hope he does.