Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting rid of carbon 7 - musings

As I was writing Getting rid of carbon 6 - emissions trading I was conscious of just how fast things are moving. I was also conscious of my own limits in knowledge.

When writing posts of this type I often ask other people questions. My daughters, my access to one slice of a younger world, know this and roll their eyes when my voice gets that particular questioning tone.

Yesterday in one of those random tests I asked the three people presently sitting next to me had they heard of carbon sequestration in soil? They had not. Without testing further, I think that this is likely to be pretty representative.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, Mr Rudd said:  

Mr Rudd outlined four sticking points that threatened a successful outcome at Copenhagen and said his job as a ''friend of the chair'' was to try to build a consensus between the developed and developing nations.

The four points were: the targets each country adopts; the level of compensation to be paid to developing countries; the best way to measure and police each nation's emissions; and how the Copenhagen agreement takes over from the Kyoto Protocol.

Note, first, that there is no mention of carbon offsets. These are, I think, still treated as a secondary issue in the context of individual national targets. Note, too, the reference to Kyoto. At Copenhagen last night, a number of G77 members walked out in protest at the possible abandonment by wealthier nations of the Kyoto Protocol.

One of the standard reasons for failure in public policy remains the tendency to grab for solutions too early instead of working the issues through. In Australia, we have a tendency to want to do and then spend a lot of time reworking to try to make an inadequate solution actually work. To some degree at least I think that this has happened with Kyoto and in Australian national responses to climate change.

I am sure that this sounds an odd thing to say when discussion and the airwaves have been so dominated by climate change and for so long. Yet when you look at the discussion that has occurred, it has generally been dominated by the existence or otherwise of climate change. Further, the discussion on solutions that has occurred had tended to follow a very narrow furrow, targets and emission trading and/or a carbon tax and/or the need to stop doing particular things.

I don't know whether these posts add anything beyond an expansion of my own knowledge. I started writing without a defined end point beyond the need to understand. As so often happens, my views have evolved as I write.

I think that we can be reasonably sure that whatever comes out of Copenhagen will be messy and incomplete. We can also be reasonably sure, I think, that whatever comes will have unseen hooks.

The difficulty the Australian opposition faces is that its current position is really just too late as is, arguably, my own writing. This does not mean that it is without value - it is still useful to have an alternative view because this forces thinking in new directions. However, the train is leaving the station.

I think that the real issue with Copenhagen is going to be to find the way the make whatever is decided work. In the meantime, I still have to finish this series!      

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