Workable greenhouse strategy needed

REGARDLESS of one’s view about the science of greenhouse and climate change, the Kyoto Protocol is not the way forward.

CCI strongly supports the stance of the Bush US administration in rejecting the Kyoto Protocol in its current form. What is needed is a response that works.

The Chamber accepts the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as a genuine international effort to address concerns over potential climate change due to changing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

However, the Protocol formulated at the Kyoto talks is unlikely to achieve the FCCC’s objective – to stabilise the concentration of green-house gases at a level that is not a threat.

The Protocol is flawed. It does not address equitably all sources of greenhouse gas emissions, nor does it take broad enough account of carbon sinks or treat correctly their function in counteracting emissions.

The Protocol fails to recognise the scientific reality that every unit of greenhouse gas emission, regardless of its source, has the same global effect.

CCI cannot support a program which exempts the developing nations while economically penalising countries like Australia (and WA in particular) on a footing that is not likely to achieve any global improvement in greenhouse effects.

As a producer of cleaner fuels, Australia needs to be seen not as part of the problem but as part of the solution. Stifling Australia’s energy industries, for example, would be self-defeating if it denies developing countries, which are their customers, a substitute for the ‘dirtier’ fuels presently used.

In the Prime Minister’s statement of November 1997 in the lead up to the Kyoto Conference, the Govern-ment set three objectives for Australia’s action on climate change.

p to meet our international comm-itments;

p to protect our hard-won inter-national competitiveness; and

p to grow the economy to im-prove Australian living standards.

These objectives were reaffirmed in the recent LNG Action Agenda and are supported by business.

It has become apparent, however, that meeting all three simultaneously is not possible under the Protocol as it stands. Much of the difficulty now being faced by industry is addressing the question of how we achieve an acceptable sustainable balance.

The nations covered by the Protocol produce only about half of the human sources of greenhouse gases, and the nations not covered are increasing their emissions at a greater rate than those which are included.

Under the Protocol, therefore, there is a potential for a shift in production out of Australia to countries not covered by the Protocol. At the very least this would mean no reduction in global emissions.

Australian carbon “sinks” are not properly recognised under the Protocol.

A proper definition of sinks needs to be negotiated which covers all forms of revegetation, not just the dense forest types that characterise high rainfall areas.

This is of particular importance for WA, where inclusion of native vegetation patterns would give an incentive for the large scale revegetation necessary to combat salinity and revitalise the rural sector – a “win-win-win” outcome.

Australia is seeking a mechanism whereby companies that produce low greenhouse fuels for export such as natural gas can gain credits to offset against the greenhouse emissions released during the production process.

It has argued against EU proposal that credits should only be used to meet a limited proportion of the net emission target.

CCI believes there are many opportunities in Australia for developments to satisfy the world’s increased needs at a lower level of global emissions than alternative developments elsewhere.

The Chamber stated its position recently to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which is investigating whether it would be in Australia’s national interest to ratify the Protocol, and we continue to encourage WA businesses to pursue energy efficiencies and cleaner production.

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