Emission trading scheme dilemma: the Australian case
Yansen, Queensland, Opinion
A ratification of Kyoto Protocol by Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister, last year gave a big hope to the future of climate talks. Joining Russia, these two developed countries are expected to attract other developed nations to do more on tackling climate problems.
Australia even goes forward in advance steps by signing agreement with Indonesia to help this country to preserve their natural rainforests. This week, Rudd’s administration launched Green Paper Report which proposes the domestic emission trading scheme in Australia. The scheme has a target to start reducing carbon pollution by 2010 for industrial sectors and 2015 for agricultural sectors. This is very ambitious target compared to the results of G8 summit which even failed to set medium term target.
Australia seems to take leadership role in leading direction combating global warming. The report underlines the need of developed worlds to take concrete steps in order to encourage global actions. The report also highlights the vulnerability of the country’s economy to the increase earth temperature as this nation is one of the hottest and driest continents on earth. Furthermore, it recognizes the threat of climate crisis to Australia’s food production, agriculture, water supplies.
Shortly, this scheme sparks debate among components in this country. The debate even comes to the very basic question: is the climate change real? This question puts a little anxiety about the future actions on global warming. And yes, the people awareness is still a problem.
Impact on this country’s economy becomes the major concern. Industries and agricultures, mainly live stocks, are two main economic sectors of Australia. Obligation to acquire a pollution permit and to pay compensation for polluting atmosphere will increase the production cost. No wonder if inflation rate is predicted to increase by the application of the scheme. This country is also one largest black coal exporters, one of the major dirty energy sources. The pain will be more when the carbon tax on transportation sector is applied.
Many components said that Australia is going too far in the climate change issue, far more advance than the rest of the world does. Opposition leader, Brendan Nelson, insisted that climate change problem will not be solved if only Australia does the action. The scheme is going to do very little indeed to the global problem. Greg Sheridan, The Australian newspaper senior analyst, even goes forward. In his opinion page, he said “we will speak loudly and carry a very small stick”.
Why should Australia to take the leading role? Where are other developed countries? Or, why developing countries are not pushed to do more? Those might be the questions for many. This debate has showed the fundamental concern that we are, both developed and developing countries, will not easily give up our economies for the sake of tackling climate changes.
So, this is the dilemma. Rudd’s administration will not be totally giving up the issue to overshadow his government’s popularity. He is not expecting a political pain from the plan. In fact, the proposal is not that radical. According to the Green Paper, the carbon pollution reduction scheme will concentrate only on the biggest polluters, which made of about 1000 Australian companies in total. This is less than one per cent of the number of registered businesses in the country. Coal-fired electricity generators will also be protected. The government has also planned for compensations and supports for households and businesses.
What should developing countries do?
One question coming out from the debate is that are we really equally burdened by the willingness to take preventive actions on global warming. Developed worlds feel to be punished by the issue. On the other hand, developing nations are playing a victim game strategy.
Many developing countries believe that the global climate crisis is caused by developed worlds; hence, they are the one that have to take initiatives. India and China seem to be more sceptical by insisting that both developing and developed nations have equal rights to emit greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. Other developing nations, including Indonesia, just wait and see.
Indonesia, just like many other developing countries, seems to wait a proposal from developed nations without a clear mind and an appropriate plan in hand. We seem not to have a clear road map to reduce our carbon emission. And yes, we are still relying on black coal as energy sources for most industries.
As a home of one largest rainforest in the world, Indonesia still has a huge problem of deforestation. There are no clear national initiatives to combat the problem. We then are happy with the scheme offering preserving rainforests without thinking to take leadership role to save our own home.
Developing worlds must have more initiatives in dealing with the climate change problem. Larger carbon emitter countries, such as China and India, must not denying the issue and take appropriate steps. Indonesia and other countries with large rainforest areas should do more to save their forests. By doing this, developed worlds could not easily point out that developing nations do nothing. We have to share equal responsibility to save our future planet.
A lecturer at the School of Forestry, University of Bengkulu, and an Australian Leadership Award Scholar