Kyoto: a good start

October 9, 2001

National environment group, Friends of the Earth Australia, has welcomed Kim Beazley's statement that, if elected, the Australian Labor Party would ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The ALP's intention "to restore Australia to a position of leadership in climate change negotiations" would provide a stark contrast to the behaviour of the Howard government, which has been responsible for undermining climate change negotiations and substantially damaging Australia's reputation in the international community.

As the world's highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, there is a great onus on Australia to play a leading role in tackling climate change. The ALP's plans to "work with emerging economies such as India and actively engage to bring the United States back into the process" are to be commended.

FoE also welcomes the planned review of the Greenhouse Challenge Program. "The Greenhouse Challenge Program has been an expensive failure," said FoE climate campaigner, Tristy Fairfield, "Companies set their own targets, around 90% of which are not met, there is no independent review, and no penalties for failure to comply with their agreements. There is perhaps no better example of the failure of voluntary programs for greenhouse gas abatement."

The ALP's endorsement of coal as part of Australia's future energy developments, however, was rejected outright. "Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel and has no place in a progressive energy strategy. This policy statement is indicative of a lack of appreciation of the urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 60-80% and moving to alternative energy sources. It shows a lack of vision for Australia as a leader in renewable energy technology," Fairfield said.

To make the transition to renewable energy, the federal government must develop a transition strategy for employment in the fossil fuel industry and shift the current subsidies for fossil fuels (around $6 billion per year) to renewables.

Friends of the Earth's recommendations for an appropriate climate change policy include;

  • a carbon tax;
  • mandatory reporting of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry;
  • clear opposition to unsustainable projects such as Basslink, inclusion of native forests in biomass, and the proposed brown coal power stations in the La Trobe Valley;
  • assurances that any transitional solutions, such as gas-fired power generators, are only used when they result in a net decrease in emissions.
  • recognition of environmental refugees and allocation of resources to accept people displaced through human induced climate change.

For more information, contact:

Tristy Fairfield
Friends of the Earth
Mob: 0411 220 704

Brad Gill
Friends of the Earth
Mob: 0400 805 281