Just after his election, Kevin Rudd called climate change “the defining challenge of our generation”. But his targets for emission reductions will not even go close to meeting the threat we face.

The IPCC, the official international committee devoted to looking into the science of climate change, has said developed countries need to cut emissions by at least 25 to 40 per cent by 2020 to avoid dangerous climate change.

Yet in December Rudd and his Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, announced a target of just 5 per cent reduction by 2020, or 15 per cent if a global agreement on reductions can be reached.

After more than a year of reassuring Australians that they are serious about climate change, the Labor government’s targets have revealed their most serious concern is protecting the profits of big business.

Thirty per cent of permits in the carbon pollution reduction scheme will be given away for free, and there will be direct cash handouts to the coal industry to the tune of $3.9 billion (without any requirement that they transition to renewable energy production).

Under Kevin Rudd, the Australian government is continuing to play the same role as it did under John Howard—sabotaging global efforts to reduce emissions. By setting such low targets they give other countries the excuse to follow suit.

Other countries will argue they should not have to pay the costs of making cuts if rich nations like Australia are not prepared to.

Corporate interests

So why is Rudd so weak on targets? Australia is an “extraction economy”, with a hugely profitable mining industry. The size of Australia’s coal exports for instance, make fossil fuel corporations enormously rich and powerful.

The government’s role in managing Australia’s capitalist economy means they have to preserve profitability.

This means there are serious vested interests in the way of forcing our government to take real action on climate change. Getting that change is going to require building up a movement powerful enough to force change, not simply relying on lobbying or persuasion to shift politicians.

By Amy Thomas and James Supple

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