IN HIS final report to the government, Professor Ross Garnaut echoes the calls from industry to abolish the one measure the Rudd government has in place that will actually make any difference in the climate crisis: the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) of 20 per cent by 2020.
Garnaut acknowledges the coal industry will continue to exist profitably under an emissions trading scheme until at least 2020. Renewable energy faces competition with the enormous existing infrastructure and economies of scale of coal-fired power.
Apart from calling for the abolition of the MRET there is nothing new in the final Garnaut report. Garnaut still advocates a target as low as 5 per cent by 2020 if the world doesn’t come to agreement for deeper cuts in Copenhagen in 2009.
He writes, “An initial agreement on a global emissions path towards stabilisation of the concentration of greenhouse gases at 550 CO2-e is feasible. 450 CO2-e is a desirable next step.”
Neither of these targets will be enough to avoid the risk of catastrophic climate change. Garnaut’s acceptance of what he thinks is feasible shows an absence of leadership that risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The only mechanism Garnaut intends to rely on to address emissions is carbon trading.
Garnaut acknowledges an emissions trading scheme will be regressive, affecting the poorest the worst. He calls for compensation for low-income earners, but does not specify what the cut off is or exactly what the compensation will be.
Emissions trading will be the worst of all worlds—hurting workers and the poor while not seriously reducing emissions. Right-wing politicians and the media will use the attacks on living standards to try and turn people against any action on climate change.
The recent economic turmoil shows why we can’t rely on market mechanisms like carbon trading to save the planet. Just as Wall Street has crashed, the emissions trading market in Europe crashed in 2006 and now emissions in Europe are still rising.
The NSW government’s Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme also crashed in in 2007 because of an oversupply of permits.
The Wall Street bailout shows what could be done if there was US$700 billion to bail out the planet rather than the rich.
Responding to Garnaut’s report
In the lead up to the final Garnaut report and to highlight the extent of the arctic melt, several small rallies took place in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney as part of a “week of action”.
Around 100 people took part in each city. In Melbourne Friends of the Earth also organised a series of small actions.
It was important the rallies took place, to highlight how inadequate Garnaut’s targets are and to oppose carbon trading.
However after the success of the Climate Emergency rally in Melbourne and Climate Camp in Newcastle, the rallies were not what they could have been.
There were some practical reasons for this that varied between cities, including not having enough time to build the rallies and poor choice of time and place.
The main reason for the small turnout was that the rallies were organised largely by the far left of the movement and that wider layers of environment activists were not willing to take part in organising them.
The mainstream movement is concentrating on the upcoming Walk Against Warming (WAW) rallies. It is a shame that the WAW organisers do not welcome open participation. If they are serious about building the kind of movement we need to stop climate change we need open, participatory meetings.
Last year several of the WAW rallies did not make any demands for government action, a huge missed opportunity when tens of thousands of people participated.
Walk Against Warming will take place in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on Saturday November 15 and in other states on Saturday December 6. The rallies have the potential to be tens of thousands strong.
Big rallies will highlight the absolute failure of the Rudd government to address the threat of catastrophic climate change.
Climate groups must use the rallies to build their membership and develop the movement we will need to force action from the Rudd government.
By Chris Breen