497 Main Road
Tasmania 7010 Australia
Phone: 61 3 62497868 (am)
Phone: 61 3 62713000 (pm)
Fax: 61 3 62730010

Printed in cyberspace on recycled electrons
Keeping you informed about TecEco sustainability projects. Issue 87, 6 June 2009

Replacing Kyoto - Making the Right Decisions

The Kyoto treaty was ratified in 2004 and mandates that industrial and mandates that industrialized nations reduce their emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. Between 1990 and 2000, the emissions from industrial nations had dropped by 3 percent, a statistic that by itself would have suggested that the developed nations were aware of the threat and taking action. A closer look, however, reveals that the lion's share of that reduction was the result of the closing of antiquated and inefficient coal-fired industries in Russia in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. With Russian data excluded, industrial emissions rose 8 per cent in the same period. The fact is that only a few EU nations will meet their targets, and industrial nations will most likely be 10 percent above 1990 levels by 2010. Worse, from the point of view of meaningful action, the world's largest and second-largest emitters of CO2, the US and China, are not subject to its provisions.

The Kyoto treaty is the result of political negotiation and diplomatic compromise and on the surface not a lot more than short term promises to reduce emissions that make politicians look good, but that their successors cannot possibly keep. It is a promissory system to reduce greenhouse gases but does little to deliver the technical and economic means to carry them out. All it did was define flexible mechanisms including carbon trading and the clean development mechanism (CDM). In many countries carbon trading has practicably morphed to a much less flexible and more manipulable cap and trade system. Our views on cap and trade versus tax systems.

The Kyoto treaty was flawed from the start in many ways and particularly because it did not provide sufficiently for the development of vital technical alternatives. Both carbon tax and cap and trade systems are based on legal rather than real market forces and somehow global warming was to be solved by using them to reduce emissions in spite of a 100% correlation between them and real world industrial product[1].

Kyoto will not work. It has no technical plan, and no plan at all to address the dependence on energy. It is a highly inequitable and inefficient agreement which will do little to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Radical alternatives are being called for and the common denominator is the need for technical change.

There was the joint communique from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the International Chamber of Commerce from the 2007 Bali conference which at point 4 said "Technology is key, for addressing the climate challenges. There is a need for scaling up of R&D jointly between Governments and Business as well as accelerating the deployment of technologies."[2]

A few months later in January 2009 the Independent Newspaper in the UK published a survey of 80 international specialists in climate change who made it clear that "an emergency plan B using the latest technology was needed[3]. The call has been repeated by economists Gwyn Prins[4] [5] and Steve Rayner [5] who confirm that "The Kyoto Protocol is a symbolically important expression of governments' concern about climate change. But as an instrument for achieving emissions reductions, it has failed". According to these authors target based emissions reduction was not going to work and what we need to do is make supply side change requiring a shift from the politics of restriction to the politics of opportunity.

These calls have recently been joined by an increasing number from the US including from Prof Jeffry Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia and members of the Breakthrough Institute.

Because of the constraint principle is inherent in the response of many countries to Kyoto many view implementations of the treaty as just another layer of tax. Some go so far as to suggest that the protocol was conceived to shift wealth from developing nations to the third world[6] which in effect it does through the CDM. No wonder the Kyoto process is resisted by many countries and big business.

All the Kyoto process has done is provide a useful forum for negotiation regarding its all important replacement. A replacement that must adopt a new direction as there is little doubt that we have wasted the years since 1997 when the Kyoto treaty was signed with useless debate as we are now tracking worse than all IPCC scenarios[7]. Assuming Kyoto commitments are met (which is very unlikely) one estimate is that global emissions will be 41% higher in 2010 than in 1990[8]

Professors Prins [4] [5] and Raynor [5] have at least recognised that supply side change is required. John Harrison our managing director has put it another way for some years and talked about changes in technical paradigms redefining materials resource flows and hence underlying molecular flows. He quotes Pilzer's first law whereby simply put the technology paradigm defines what is or is not a resource. John believes is that technical change is required on the supply side and this will involved not only energy intensity, energy efficiency and energy sourcing but massive sequestration as well.

Although energy use efficiency is rising the resulting gains will be nowhere near sufficient to make much difference[9] because of increasing affluence in China, India and parts of south America and of course population growth. Affluence is arguably desirable if for no other reason than that it promises to curb population growth however the problem is that in spite of improved efficiency gains high energy use is required to achieve such affluence and over 95% of this energy is still derived from fossil fuels.

There has been some switching to non fossil fuel sources of energy and nuclear is predicted to grow but the basic problem remains of a coupling between fossil fuel energy and affluence. This coupling is the main reason for the failure of the Kyoto process as restraint by corollary is economically restrictive. Calls for emissions reductions by the US or for that matter so called third world nations are falling on deaf ears.

A further strategy is to add sequestration to the mix of measures to combat global warming however this is not, at least until the TecEco Gaia Engineering platform is understood and implemented, as simple as it seems. This subject is discussed in detail on the TecEco web page Solutions to the Global Warming Problem where it is demonstrated that geosequestration is at best a very short term alternative fraught with danger and any leakage will result in failure within a few hundred years.

It seems that everybody in the world are missing the point. We will not get there on a plan like Kyoto based on promises. Humans are basically on the whole too greedy and self centered for constraint to work and besides the third world are entitled to and many are rapidly achieving the level of affluence we have. The plan must include means for these countries to achieve affluence without the same per capita carbon cost that we have had in achieving our standard of living. Rather than promises there must be a plan to take us into the long term future that takes into account the way we are, that turns greed and selfishness which are currently a major impediments into a driving force for solving the carbon problem. Put simply the solution must make money. The world must adopt such a plan or as Stern, Prof Garnaut in Australia and many others have pointed out, the cost will be huge. The impact on civilisation of increased drought, famine, floods and hurricanes will be enormous compared to the cost of action.

We must accept our long term role of maintaining “spaceship earth” as planetary engineers and find ways of maintaining the level of carbon dioxide, oxygen and other gases in the atmosphere at desirable levels and we cannot possibly arrest the alarming increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide currently occurring through efficiency, emissions reduction (constraint) or substitution alone. There must also be massive sequestration.

Nature is the greatest economist of all and we have a good chance of preserving the future if we mimic her by finding profitable uses for carbon and other wastes. A solution that puts profit in the pocket of a large number who will as a consequence wish to engage is required otherwise it cannot be implemented on the massive scale required.

Our Gaia Engineering involves sequestration as man made carbonate in the built environment and is a new technology platform that has the promise of profitably sequestering massive amounts of carbon because the markets created in building and construction are insatiable, large enough and indefinitely continuing. Sequestration is achieved pursuant to our Gaia engineering technology platform by building with man made carbonate and most likely presents the only option we have for saving the planet from runaway climate change until such time as safe and reliable forms of energy alternative to fossil fuels can be developed.

Footnotes and References

[1] di Fazio, A. "The Fallacy of Pure Efficiency Gain Measures to Control Future Climate Change." 2008.

[2] Reported by TecEco in Newsletter 75

[3] Conner, S. and C. Green, Climate scientists: it's time for 'Plan B', in The Independent. 2nd January 2009, Independent Newspapers.

[4] Prins, Gwyn, The road from Kyoto, The Guardian, Friday 4 April, 2008 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/04/climatechange.carbonemissions

[5] Prins, Gwyn and Raynor, Steve, Time to ditch Kyoto, Nature 449, 973-975 (25 October 2007)

[6] We suggest just google "Kyoto shift wealth to the third world" and many many references will come up. e.g Global Warming, Globalization and the Kyoto Accord - Opinions and Conjecture at http://www.k5kj.net/gwarming.htm

[7] Whetton, P., Climate Change: What is the Science Telling Us? 2008, CSIRO: Presentation for the Australian Cement Federation Conference, 14 September, 2007, Melbourne.

[8] 1. Ford, M., et al. Perspectives on International Climate Change. in Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society 50th Annual Conference. 2006. Sydney: Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society

[9] There are thermodynamic limits to energy efficiency. See the TecEco economics and political pages and reference [1] above

TecEco's Comments on the Shelved Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS)

Much as we think Kyoto is a failed process and that a new direction is required if we are to have a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) then we need one that might work. There is a lot wrong with the recently temporarily shelved CPRS scheme. Hopefully the government take head of what follows and fix it!

TecEco are not convinced that a cap and trade scheme is better than a tax scheme or that any scheme will work as we point out in the above article. A cap in trade scheme as in the CPRS gives much greater license for lobbyists to pressure for higher caps or cheaper initial permits than reasonable which is what is happening. There is a lot else wrong with the scheme. From the point of view of TecEco it represents constraint rather than opportunity, impacts on business without encouraging the deployment of alternatives like our Gaia Engineering under which business could thrive.

In our web page The Implications of Gaia Engineering for the Cement and Concrete Industry we say "Emissions reduction is essential but useless alone now without efforts to actively remove CO2 from the air (See 2 below). The reason is that there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere to cause significant temperature rises and the gas does not dissipate quickly.

Emissions constraint without alternatives is also politically and economically not achievable because it involves actions that reduce profitability. Profitability is linked to the survival of individuals, companies and governments and none survive long without.

Carbon trading attaches legal costs to emissions that are supposed to help the required migration to non fossil fuel energy sources and other green alternative technologies without carbon costs attached. The trouble is that the success of the mechanism depends on the unpredictable and uncertain politics of the future and given the non performance by global governments to date lacks credibility. That there will be a certain and sufficiently high future cost for carbon cannot be relied upon by big business so they have not and are unlikely to invest in alternative green technologies. In the meantime the obvious need to foster alternatives remains unattended to and the ‘we will if you will’ political show continues.

Alternatives are not being developed or implemented quickly enough because investors are not supporting them given the uncertainties of the Kyoto process. Development and deployment costs are high and carbon trading is a fickle instrument of governments they do not trust reducing the effectiveness of offsets as a driver.

There is ample evidence that Kyoto type processes have not and will not solve the problem. So far we are tracking on worse than all IPCC alternatives. Assuming Kyoto commitments are met (which is very unlikely) one estimate is that global emissions will be 41% higher in 2010 than in 1990." (References are given on our web site page)

If we are going to have a strategy to deal with emissions then it has to be one that does not impact on business and that encourages business growth in alternatives. If we have to have cap and trade then what is most disappointing for TecEco is that the CPRS scheme will not penetrate into the building and construction industry where there is significant potential abatement for many years. Our industry remains in the "too hard" basket.

Of particular concern is the lack of support for offsets trading, much of which results in voluntary abatement. Offsets trading would have promoted innovation and helped stimulate vital new alternative technologies like ours that could have delivered significant abatement. As a consequence of the lack of support for offsets trading there is little doubt that voluntary abatement of scope 3 emissions such as in the building and construction industry will be strongly curtailed. Carbon trading is enough of a negative already and the removal of offsets strongly undermines credibility and reinforces this negativity. The architects of the CPRS seem to have entirely missed the point and are out of step with a global trend to technological improvement. We need a future of opportunity not constraint.

Lack of recognition for voluntary abatement will also drive low carbon innovation and industry offshore. If for example TecEco were to establish itself in India then the company could create CDM credits that are counted as real abatement, and could be retired. At the moment the best we can do under the CPRS as it was first released is free up more permits for liable parties. This amounts to discrimination against Australian abatement and progressive Australian industries including those prepared to innovate like us. The government were prepared to throw billions at high emitters, yet at the same time ignore the development of innovative low emitters that must be the industries of our future. It is actively discrimination and crazy to say the least.

The arguments in the original CPRS white paper on pages 136 and 137 that offsets would not reduce emissions may be technically correct given the structure of the proposed scheme. If we must have legal carbon costs what must be stressed are the other advantages of offsets, the main one being that they encourage innovation especially in businesses not caught by the scheme. As we argue at length elsewhere, emissions constraint without alternatives is politically and economically not achievable because it involves actions that reduce real profitability. Profitability can only be created by new technologies that the scheme fails to encourage by not providing offsets that can leverage their development. According to the fine print in the CPRS, offsets are not to be considered until 2013 (page 138).

Investment uncertainty caused by insufficient clarity about offsets under the proposed CPRS is of considerable concern to innovative startups like TecEco with potentially very significant contributions to make. A key outcome of the CPRS should have been that its design encourages the introduction of innovative solutions, such as our Gaia Engineering which proposes building with man made carbonate. While we agree that the CPRS needed to have clear boundaries and guidelines, we are very concerned that established, relevant and near- commercial technologies like our are being overlooked.

Another problem impacting on TecEco with the proposed CPRS is the aforementioned need for investment certainty. Companies in the past have not invested in Tececo because of the lack of certainty about rewards for carbon abatement and TecEco were getting ready to go through the hoops to obtain "Greenhouse Friendly" recognition when it was terminated. We agree that the process under the "Greenhouse Friendly" scheme was slow and expensive due to the plethora of consultants required and convoluted rules and that something easier to implement was required. If these difficulties were the reason for terminating "Greenhouse Friendly" however then they are the wrong reasons. The axing of "Greenhouse Friendly" has undermined the concept of legal value in carbon offsets or credits and severely reduced the labour government's credibility. After the "Greenhouse Friendly" fiasco we also doubt whether governments can be trusted enough to back proposed property rights for emissions permits. The fact is that it would have been much better to have just fixed "Greenhouse Friendly" as certainty is essential to support and encourage investment in new technologies that will solve the many environmental problems we have.

The problem has now become too urgent to rely on legally tweaked market mechanisms to solve it. Governments should be involved and backing massive sequestration and technology change as so far a lack of investment certainty has been fatal for the development of alternatives including TecEco technology for several years now. Given the inability for people let alone governments to agree there is unlikely to ever be a credible legal price for carbon over time scales relevant to major capital investment, i.e., decades. Our politicians have muffed it and the perception amongst debt or equity financiers is that it is simply too risky for either to participate in many greenhouse gas emissions abatement and climate change adaptation projects.

As a consequence of the failure of the whole process and lack of certainty TecEco will be taking a new direction and trying to form an alliance with a group with the plausibility to convince governments to back our technology on a large scale

Big CO2 polluters such as power stations will require the implementation of a carbon capture & storage (CCS) solutions including Gaia Engineering. There are barriers to the commercialisation of these new technologies such as economies of scale, patent costs, early unfair competition and business practices. Leverage through a sensible carbon trading scheme that included offsets could have provided the funding required to get over these barriers. Arguably the solution can be implemented more quickly however by a new direction including massive government investment in alternatives.

Further information is to be found on our economics and political pages and on many of our sustainability pages

A Quote to Remember

“There is nothing more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating change. The innovator makes enemies of all those who prosper under the old
order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new. Their support is lukewarm partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the existing laws on their side, and partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience.”

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince 1514

A Wartime Mobilisation?

from http://www.earthpolicy.org/Books/Seg/PB3ch13_ss1.htm with permission.

Lester R. Brown, Earthwatch Institute

There are many things we do not know about the future. But one thing we do know is that business as usual will not continue for much longer. Massive change is inevitable. Will the change come because we move quickly to restructure the economy or because we fail to act and civilization begins to unravel?

Saving civilization will take a massive mobilization, and at wartime speed. The closest analogy is the belated U. S. mobilization during World War II. But unlike that chapter in history, in which one country totally restructured its economy, the Plan B mobilization requires decisive action on a global scale.

On the climate front, official attention has now shifted to negotiating a post-Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon emissions. But that will take years. We need to act now. There is simply not time for years of negotiations and then more years for ratification of another international agreement.

It is time for individual countries to take initiatives on their own.

We know from our analysis of global warming, from the accelerating deterioration of the economy´s ecological supports, and from our projections of future resource use in China that the western economic model--the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy--will not last much longer. We need to build a new economy, one that will be powered by renewable sources of energy, that will have a diversified transport system, and that will reuse and recycle everything.

We can describe this new economy in some detail. The question is how to get from here to there before time runs out. Can we reach the political tipping points that will enable us to cut carbon emissions before we reach the ecological tipping points where the melting of the Himalayan glaciers becomes irreversible? Will we be able to halt the deforestation of the Amazon before it dries out, becomes vulnerable to fire, and turns into wasteland?

What if three years from now scientists announced that we have waited too long to cut carbon emissions and that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is irreversible? How would the realization that we are responsible for a coming 23-foot rise in sea level (ed. over 7 metres) and hundreds of millions of refugees from rising seas affect us? How would it affect our sense of self, our sense of who we are? It could trigger a fracturing of society along generational lines like the more familiar fracturing of societies along racial, religious, and ethnic lines. How will we respond to our children when they ask, how could you do this to us? How could you leave us facing such chaos?

As we have seen, a corporate accounting system that left costs off the books drove Enron, one of the largest U. S. corporations, into bankruptcy. Unfortunately, our global economic accounting system that also leaves costs off the books has potentially far more serious consequences.

The key to building a global economy that can sustain economic progress is the creation of an honest market, one that tells the ecological truth. To create an honest market, we need to restructure the tax system by reducing taxes on work and raising them on various environmentally destructive activities to incorporate indirect costs into the market price. If we can get the market to tell the truth, then we can avoid being blind sided by a faulty accounting system that leads to bankruptcy. As Øystein Dahle, former Vice President of Exxon for Norway and the North Sea, has observed: Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth.

As we contemplate mobilizing to save civilization, we see both similarities and contrasts with the mobilization for World War II. In this earlier case, there was an economic restructuring, but it was temporary. Mobilizing to save civilization, in contrast, requires an enduring economic restructuring.

Still, the U. S. entry into World War II offers an inspiring case study in rapid mobilization. Initially, the United States resisted involvement and responded only after it was directly attacked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. But respond it did. After an all-out commitment, the U. S. engagement helped turn the tide of war, leading the Allied Forces to victory within three-and-a-half years.

In his State of the Union address on January 6, 1942, one month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt announced the country´s arms production goals. The United States, he said, was planning to produce 45,000 tanks, 60,000 planes, 20,000 anti-aircraft guns, and 6 million tons of merchant shipping. He added, "Let no man say it cannot be done.

No one had ever seen such huge arms production numbers. But Roosevelt and his colleagues realized that the world´s largest concentration of industrial power at that time was in the U. S. automobile industry. Even during the Depression, the United States was producing 3 million or more cars a year. After his State of the Union address, Roosevelt met with automobile industry leaders and told them that the country would rely heavily on them to each these arms production goals. Initially they wanted to continue making cars and simply add on the production of armaments. What they did not yet know was that the sale of new cars would soon be banned. From early 1942 through the end of 1944, nearly three years, there were essentially no cars produced in the United States.

In addition to a ban on the production and sale of cars for private use, residential and highway construction was halted, and driving for pleasure was banned. Strategic goods-- including tires, gasoline, fuel oil, and sugar--were rationed beginning in 1942. Cutting back on private consumption of these goods freed up material resources that were vital to the war effort.

The year 1942 witnessed the greatest expansion of industrial output in the nation´s history--all for military use. From the beginning of 1942 through 1944, the United States far exceeded the initial goal of 60,000 planes, turning out a staggering 229,600 aircraft, a fleet so vast it is hard even today to visualize it. Equally impressive, by the end of the war more than 5,000 ships were added to the 1,000 or so that made up the American Merchant Fleet in 1939.

In her book No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how various firms converted. A sparkplug factory was among the first to switch to the production of machine guns. Soon a manufacturer of stoves was producing lifeboats, a merry-go-round factory was making gun mounts; a toy company was turning out compasses; a corset manufacturer was producing grenade belts; and a pinball machine plant began to make armor-piercing shells.

In retrospect, the speed of this conversion from a peacetime to a wartime economy is stunning. The harnessing of U. S. industrial power tipped the scales decisively toward the Allied Forces. Winston Churchill often quoted his foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey: "The United States is like a giant boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.

This mobilization of resources within a matter of months demonstrates that a country and, indeed, the world can restructure the economy quickly if convinced of the need to do so. Many people--although not yet the majority--are already convinced of the need for a wholesale economic restructuring. The purpose of my book Plan B 3.0 is to convince more people of this need, helping to tip the balance toward the forces of change and hope.


Adapted from Chapter 13, "The Great Mobilization," in Lester R. Brown, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008), available for free downloading and purchase at www. earthpolicy. org/Books/PB3/index. htm.

Order your copy today and get the special holiday gift rate of $13.00 -- autographed, too! Discounts on bulk purchases: http://www.earthpolicy.org/devcart/index.php? target=products&product_id=29786

For information contact:

Media Contact: Reah Janise Kauffman Tel: (202) 496-9290 x 12 E-mail: rjk (at) earthpolicy. org

Research Contact: Janet Larsen Tel: (202) 496-9290 x 14 E-mail: jlarsen (at) earthpolicy. org

Earth Policy Institute
1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 403 Washington, DC 20036 Web: www. earthpolicy. org

Global Warming is a Global Catastrophe

25 February 2009: Former Australian Institute of Company Directors CEO Ian Dunlop writes:

The fatal flaw in the current global warming debate is that most of the key players are singing off the wrong songsheet. Current policy proposals are based on scientific information which at least five years out-of-date. The latest information indicates that we now run a rapidly increasing risk of sudden and total failure of some part of the climatic system, from which recovery may be impossible -- in short, a risk of catastrophe which may seriously damage society as we know it.

The evidence is mounting daily:

The Arctic sea-ice melt is far more rapid than predicted, to the point the Arctic may be ice-free in summer within a few years, giving a major boost to global warming; this was not supposed to happen until the end of the century.

Human carbon emissions are accelerating far faster than predicted.

Natural carbon sinks appear to be absorbing less carbon than previously, thereby increasing atmospheric carbon concentrations.

Ice-sheets are forecast to melt and disintegrate at lower temperatures than expected due to non-linear feedback effects, with consequent increase in sea level rise.
Ocean acidification is accelerating with consequent destruction of marine organisms.

Perhaps most concerning, carbon dioxide emissions from the Arctic permafrost and methane hydrate emissions from the Arctic seabed appear to be accelerating rapidly.

Exactly what form this climatic failure might take is unclear, due to scientific uncertainty around these issues, so this is a matter of managing risk in the face of uncertainty. As a former Chief of Staff of the US Army put it in a recent global warming report: "If you wait for 100% certainty on the battlefield, something bad is going to happen".

Well, bad things are happening: Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar last year killed some 78,000 people with millions homeless; Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh in 2007 killed some 3000 people and destroyed 500,000 homes; the Californian bushfires in 2007 killed nine people and destroyed 1500 homes; Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005 killed 1500 people and devastated the city of New Orleans. Now it is our turn, with 209 killed in the Victorian bushfires and 1800 homes lost, and devastating flooding in North Queensland, to add to the grinding agony of extended drought.

All this is at only the existing 0.8oC warming, let alone the further 0.6oC to which we are already committed.

None of these disasters can be put down exclusively to climate change, but they are all in line with the forecast evolution of global warming, with increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Most, particularly the Victorian bushfires, are way beyond the bounds of normal statistical variation. But the immediate concern is the rapid summer melt of Arctic sea-ice and the increasing evidence of methane hydrate and permafrost carbon dioxide emissions. If this takes off, global warming will probably move beyond our control, with catastrophic consequences. We continue to ignore these warnings at our peril.

Honesty about this challenge is essential, otherwise we will never develop realistic solutions.

We face nothing less than a global emergency which must be addressed with a global emergency response, akin to national mobilisations pre-WWII or the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of post-war Europe. This is not extremist nonsense, but a call echoed by an increasing numbers of world leaders as the science becomes better understood.

Solutions are available and should be built around emissions trading, but it will only work if the carbon price signals are strong and clear and the Federal Government’s CPRS proposals meet neither criteria. In the face of catastrophic risk, emission reduction targets should be based on the latest, considered, science, not on a political view of the art-of-the-possible.

The target for stabilisation of atmospheric carbon to avoid catastrophic consequences and maintain a safe climate is now a concentration of less than 300ppm CO2, not the outdated 450-550ppm CO2e on which current proposals are based. This means emission reductions for Australia must be in the range 45-50% by 2020 and almost complete decarbonisation by 2050, rather than the 5-15% by 2020 and 60% by 2050 currently proposed.

Many will dismiss these targets as unattainable given that current concentrations are 385ppm CO2; it will require not only the rapid curtailment of emissions, but the re-absorption of some carbon already in the atmosphere. We have the technology to achieve this and the targets are only unattainable when viewed with a business-as-usual mind set. When real emergencies loom then remarkable change is possible.

But emissions trading alone is not enough. Given the size and speed of the change required, it must be complemented with regulatory initiatives and other incentives to accelerate energy efficiency, conservation and alternative energy supply, improve building codes, improve vehicle and aviation emission standards, personal carbon trading opportunities etc. This does not mean picking winners, but setting the right framework for rapid change.

The focus must be on the opportunities and benefits of creating new industries rather than the problems and costs of moving away from the old. It can be achieved at far less cost than the horror stories propagated by the existing sunset fossil-fuel lobby and in many cases with a net economic benefit. Employment is likely to rise as these new industries are far more labour-intensive than the industries they replace.

But compensation must be minimised -- public funding should encourage a viable future, not prop up an unsustainable past, particularly when that funding is going to be in short supply. There is absolutely no justification for compensation to trade-exposed industries, or domestic high-emitters, in the emergency situation we now face. The world will be crying out for low-carbon product, which will be a source of competitive advantage.

Carbon taxes make no sense in current circumstances. They do not deliver guaranteed emission reductions and the inevitable continued tinkering with tax levels would be politically and commercially untenable.

The best tribute we can pay to the victims of the Victorian bushfires is to now start taking global warming seriously and stop playing political games.


Ian Dunlop was formerly a senior international oil, gas and coal industry executive. He chaired the Australian Coal Association in 1987-88, chaired the Australian Greenhouse Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading from 1998-2000 which developed the first Australian emissions trading concepts and was CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors from 1997-2001. He advises internationally on climate, energy and sustainability.