Saturday, September 08, 2007

At last, action on climate change (against ourselves)

crowing about the new international consensus he had achieved on climate change today the Prime Minister mentioned the words “United Nations” not once.

But in the six-page agreement itself they are mentioned 10 times.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – the one that gave us the Kyoto Protocol that John Howard refuses to ratify – is the forum through which APEC members have pledged to work.

John Howard said the APEC leaders had “moved substantially” to forge the consensus. He is right. The two biggest recalcitrants have been the United States and Australia...

Each treated the United Nations Framework Convention with contempt: taking part in its negotiations, but refusing to ratify the protocol that resulted.

Much of what John Howard achieved yesterday was an “own goal”. He locked himself (and also the United States) into playing by the international rules.

He doesn’t see it that way. He sees it as getting countries such as China in the tent.

But China and India have always taken part in the UN climate change process. They even signed the Kyoto Protocol. It is true that the protocol didn’t require them to meet emission targets, but yesterday’s Sydney Declaration cuts them slack as well.

It says there should be respect for different economic circumstances and capacities. While each country will be expected to make a “contribution” to fighting climate change each country won’t be required to make the same contribution.

John Howard has helped put the UN climate change process back on track (after helping derail it).

The Sydney Declaration will create a lasting legacy in the form of co-ordinated serious action on climate change that’s likely to achieve something after a largely wasted decade.