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>New Australian government ratifies Kyoto then pulls handbrake

>When the first action taken by the new Labor government was to ratify Kyoto I wondered whether it was an ominous sign of the left’s compulsion for symbolism over results.

As I’ve commented previously, leadership tends to change people in positive ways and it’s always wise to let some time go by before passing judgement. Who would have thought, in 1996, that John Howard would become the political giant that he did?

Labor’s campaign tactic on the environment made ratifying Kyoto the central theme and in doing so ensured that not only did it not lose votes to the Greens but actually picked up a few from them. Now that they’ve fulfilled their obligation to ratification they need to work on how to fulfil their obligation to economic conservatism – something I’ll believe when I see it but, as commented above, it’s always wise to give things time rather than rush to judgement – which comes in the form of the Garnaut report. The report is not due out until next year and allows Labor to not commit to anything in Bali; the best of both worlds.

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd last night did an about-face on deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, days after Australia’s delegation backed the plan at the climate talks in Bali.

A government representative at the talks this week said Australia backed a 25-40 per cent cut on 1990 emission levels by 2020.

But after warnings it would lead to huge rises in electricity prices, Mr Rudd said the Government would not support the target.

The repudiation of the delegate’s position represents the first stumble by the new Government’s in its approach to climate change.

Mr Rudd said he supported a longer-term greenhouse emissions cut of 60 per cent of 2000 levels by 2050.

But the Government would not set medium-term targets until a report by economist Ross Garnaut was completed next year.

“I think speculation on individual numbers prior to that is not productive and I would suggest it would be better for all concerned if we waited for the outcome of that properly-deliberated document,” Mr Rudd said.

The electricity industry yesterday warned it may not be able to meet growing consumer demand and comply with the 2020 target.

Energy Supply Association of Australia chief executive Brad Page said a 17 per cent power price rise in Victoria would seem “pretty modest” compared with the cost of complying with the target.

An ESAA report released this year found cutting carbon emissions by 30 per cent of 2000 levels by 2030 wold push up power costs by 30 per cent.

Mr Page said the cost of meeting the higher target by 2020 would be much more as low-cost, green-generation technology would not be available for more than 10 years.

“You are dependent on yet-to-be delivered technology,” he said.

“The community needs to be aware cuts of this magnitude will come at considerable cost and it’s difficult to know how exactly it will be delivered.”

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson said the suggested cuts would have “devastating impact” on Australia’s economic development.

“It will have serious consequences for electricity bills and many other burdens borne by working families in day-to-day life, and pensioners,” Dr Nelson said.

Greenpeace campaigner Steven Campbell said Australia should slash carbon emissions by 20 to 40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020.

“If we want to keep global warming below 2C then these are the targets we need,” Mr Campbell said.

A team of 212 climate change experts from more than 20 countries yesterday called for a 50 per cent cut in greenhouse pollution by 2050.

(Nothing Follows)

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