Australia becomes part of the solution…

Yes, Australia has joined the civilized world and ratified the Kyoto protocol, though it will take until March for the UN to do the paperwork.

Of course, the main game now is the Bali conference, which opened to Australia getting a round of applause for its actions. Most of the developed world has, unilaterally, started to pencil in carbon cuts, so in some sense the biggest question is what, if anything, the developing countries will agree to.

With that, it’s worth having a read of these pair of posts on Troppo by Nick Gruen and Peter Gallagher on the Bali negotiations. Gallagher is skeptical of the whole concept of a global treaty with a bunch of national targets, and seems to think that our recently-deposed PM was on to something with his “overlapping regional agreements” proposal (why this is supposed to help I’ve no idea, but anyway). Nick Gruen argues for a position something like the contraction and convergence model, where entitlements to emit carbon would be handed out on the basis of population size.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the industrializing countries will have to face binding targets soon – we simply can’t cut greenhouse gas enough without their contribution. But, just as important as the model that they use, is what disincentives are placed before them in the event they do not agree.

As noted in the comments threads of the Club Troppo post, French president Nicholas Sarkozy is beginning to float the obvious disincentive – carbon tariffs, in a speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing:

“I will defend the principle of a carbon compensation mechanism at the EU’s borders with regard to countries that don’t put in place rules for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Sarkozy said.

I wonder if Sarkozy will find any allies for that idea across the Atlantic? Will we see the developed countries hang together on this issue?

Posted in environment, politics
32 comments on “Australia becomes part of the solution…
  1. Paul Burns says:

    Just some very impressionistic stuff. It was delightful to see that diplomat’s beaming face when he announced Ausdtralia had signed Kyoto. Suddenly people in Bali wanted to talk to us. If the applause from international delegates didn’t convince Howard and those other disastrous climate sceptics that something very seroious was happening with climate change (or as Rudd said -it’s bad) nothing will. What damage Howard has caused this country for his years of being Bush’s b*m-b*y is absolutely incalculable.

  2. Sam Clifford says:

    I like the idea of Carbon tariffs, using trade mechanisms to encourage countries to take serious action on climate change. It’s a much nicer idea than a global carbon emissions trading scheme because each country is going to want a certain model and it’ll be hard to reach consensus on a global scheme. Let the countries cut carbon however they want to, let the WTO/GATT/EU/whoever impose the tariffs and use the tariff money to invest in greenhouse gas reduction mechanisms.

  3. bahnischba says:

    I’m not on top of the fine print of the Kyoto Protocol, but I think punitive tariffs may already be available in the case of Annexe A countries. Perhaps Sarkozy is signalling that it is time to get serious. France as a low emitter comparatively has the high moral ground, albeit courtesy of their nuclear power industry.

    I’m in favour of a contraction and convergence model, because it involves seriously addressing what we need to do to by a specific time save the planet. There may be variations on this through geographic or economic circumstances, but it allows offsets to accommodate these without compromising the whole project.

    I’m planning to finish a post early next week revisiting what targets may need to be in view of information about disappearing ice, failing carbon sinks etc. My preliminary conclusion is that China and Brazil who are squealing about constraints and their need for economic development are already ahead of where they will need to be in say 2030 on a per capita basis.

    Another factor is whether countries like India, China and Brazil are in fact Hiding behind the poor. That is they are using the low per capita emissions courtesy of their large populations of very poor to mask the bourgeoning and indulgent lifestyles of the rich in those countries.

  4. Another factor is whether countries like India, China and Brazil are in fact Hiding behind the poor. That is they are using the low per capita emissions courtesy of their large populations of very poor to mask the bourgeoning and indulgent lifestyles of the rich in those countries.

    Very good point, Brian.

  5. FDB says:

    What Robert said re: Brian’s point.

    What’s more, when challenged they’re using trickle-down rhetoric as a handy out. If it’s good enough for the West….

  6. Sam Clifford says:

    Perhaps the per-capita numbers were part of Costello’s motivation for the baby bonus? 😉

  7. bahnischba says:

    Further to FDB’s comment there are indeed questions (which I can’t resolve) as to whether these countries are seriously addressing the lot of the poor.

    I do know that late last century the then BJP Indian government magically lifted over 100 million above the $1 per day line by changing they way they did the survey. I heard recently that a new study found that the 150 million the World Bank spruiks as having been lifted out of poverty in China were mostly still there when you calculated the $US according to PPP rather than MER or whatever they had been using. Brazil has one of the worst Gini coefficients on the planet.

  8. Chris says:

    “France as a low emitter comparatively has the high moral ground, albeit courtesy of their nuclear power industry.”

    I wonder if they take into account life cycle emissions from nuclear power, rather than just the current plant emissions. Given the claims ( that nuclear power isn’t that low emmission after all, perhaps the CO2 emissions of countries with significant nuclear power generation need to be recalculated?

  9. Chris: the short version is that Greenpeace’s claims about the life cycle emissions of nuclear power are complete bollocks.

  10. Roger Jones says:

    re comments #3 and #4. If you have ever been to any negotiations where those named countries represent themselves that is their bottom line – they cry poor bugger me. This is a triumph of self interest over collective common sense, something Orstraylia has excelled in for the past few years. China, India and Brasil are rich when it suits and poor when it suits. I suspect some form of contraction and convergence will be required to get them to step up. They could try it with their own very skewed income distributions, balancing out rich and poor(equity, efficiency and environment).

    Re new targets – we are moving further, faster and will have to cut quicker and deeper if we want to preserve some of the more sensitive natural systems at risk. To say nothing of human systems with low adaptive capacity. We know who and where they are – many people are badly exposed to climate risks now and need urgently to develop.

    The higher we insist on maintaining our own per capita emissions, the higher a target those who have not, will aspire to. There needs to be a global discussion on what might constitute reasonable and sustainable per capita emissions (not the number of people divided into a capped target, but a bottom up exploration of what each person may need, tailored to a reasonable basket og goods and services)

  11. Roger Jones says:

    og goods and services? of

    Sorry – bad typing


  12. silkworm says:

    Robert Merkel said:

    “… the short version is that Greenpeace’s claims about the life cycle emissions of nuclear power are complete bollocks.”

    That’s a bit hyperbolic, don’t you think?

    You would be referring to this paragraph from the Greenpeace article:

    “While it’s true that most nuclear reactors do not emit carbon (although British nuclear plants actually do release CO2 gas because it is used for cooling), they are a small part of a nuclear fuel chain which most certainly does. The preparation of uranium for the reactor involves a host of CO2-emitting processes, including: mining and milling the ore; fuel enrichment and fuel-rod fabrication. Then there’s the construction of the power station itself. At the other end there’s reactor decommissioning and the treatment, storage, transport and disposal of nuclear waste. All of this involves CO2 emissions, which in some areas – such as fuel enrichment – are significant.”

    Now, while it is true that the article does not give any figures for us to make a comparison between coal- and nuclear-generated electricity, there is still some substance to this criticism of nuclear-generated electricity. So, rather than just saying “complete bollocks”, why don’t you give us a scientific refutation of the Greenpeace claim?

  13. Paul Burns says:

    Howard Government claims to the UN about our greenhouse emissions reductions weere undereestimated by 20%; as was our participation in clean energy programmes; clean energy csr funding etc. cf today’s Canberra Times.
    I suppose its comforting to know Howard was lying to the rest of the world as well as to us. I mean, we weten’t the only dupes.

  14. silkworm: because it is, really, truly and utterly bollocks, and Greenpeace either knows it and keeps repeating it anyway, or can’t do basic arithmetic.

    Unfortunately, the UMPNER report has just disappeared from the Prime Minister’s website, but you can have a poke around on the Wayback Machine. They commissioned the University of Sydney to review this very question, and their conclusion was that while emissions were not zero, they were an order of magnitude less than natural gas, let alone coal.

    Or you could try, a website put together by a physicist at Melbourne University, whose conclusion was that the life cycle emissions of nuclear power were about the same, or less, than most renewables.

  15. silkworm says:

    I tried downloading the relevant bit of the umpner report, but it’s of a spurious file type. No luck thre.

    As for the second link, we have this:

    “It is worth noting that the widely quoted paper by Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith (SLS), which gives a rather pessimistic assessment of the Energy Lifecycle of Nuclear Power, assumes a far larger energy cost to construct and decommission a Nuclear Power plant (240 Peta-Joules versus 8 Peta-Joules(PJ)). The difference is that Vattenfall actually measured their energy inputs whereas Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Smith employed various theoretical relationships between dollar costs and energy consumed. This paper also grossly over-estimates the energy cost of mining low-grade Ores and also that the efficiency of extraction of Uranium from reserves would fall dramatically at ore concentrations below 0.05%. Employing their calculations predicts that the energy cost of extracting the Olympic Dam mine’s yearly production of 4600 tonnes of Uranium would require energy equivalent to almost 2 one-GigaWatt power plants running for a full year (2 GigaWat-years). … This is larger than the entire electricity production of South Australia and an order of magnitude more than the measured energy inputs.”

    This actually supports what Greenpeace are saying!

    So, Robert, if you still want to argue the benefits of nuclear power, could you provide a link to a site that is not connected to the nuclear lobby?

  16. christina says:

    plus, nuclear waste.

  17. Um, no, Silkworm, you’ve misinterpreted. Greenpeace are basing their claims on the analysis of Storm van Leeuwin and Smith (SLS). The guy behind, Martin Sevior (a physicist at Melbourne Uni who supports nuclear power but has no financial ties with the industry) is saying that SLS’s analysis is incorrect.

    According to Sevior, SLS’s theoretical model indicates that that Olympic Dam must use more energy than the actual, measured energy consumption of the entire state of South Australia. That should indicate you that there’s something seriously screw-if with SLS’s model.

  18. Liam Hogan says:

    This actually supports what Greenpeace are saying!

    Not really, silkworm. That’s an argument with which the authors disagree, as should be clear.

    plus, nuclear waste.

    Minus, atmospheric waste.

  19. FDB says:

    Silkworm, it does nothing of the sort. It’s saying, to take the last example, that if as much energy is needed to mine and refine uranium as estimated by van Leeuwen and Smith, then Olympic Dam would be using more than the total energy production of South Australia. It’s safe to assume this is not happening, as it is a logical absurdity.

    Also, the first link works fine for me – perhaps you’re missing a plugin?

  20. FDB says:

    Sorry silky, didn’t mean a pile on. Comments crossed.

  21. silkworm says:

    “It’s saying … that if as much energy is needed to mine and refine uranium as estimated by van Leeuwen and Smith, then Olympic Dam would be using more than the total energy production of South Australia. It’s safe to assume this is not happening, as it is a logical absurdity.”

    This is not a scientific refutation. Either “as much energy is needed to mine and refine uranium as estimated by van Leeuwen and Smith” or it isn’t. Where are the figures to support Martin Sevior’s case?

  22. This is getting offtopic, but anyway… what Sevior is doing is a perfectly common technique of scientific argument: take a model proposed by somebody, input some parameters of some known instance where the model applies, and compare its predictions to known measurements. If the prediction of the model and the known measurements are very different, there must be a flaw in the model.

    The model of interest is SLS’s model of the energy requirements for mining and milling uranium, based on the yield and ore quality. On this page, Sevior plugs in known values for the yield and ore concentration at Olympic Dam, and then obtains an energy cost per tonne of uranium mined. As the amount of uranium produced by Olympic Dam is also a known quantity, Sevior can then calaculate how much energy the SLS model predicts that Olympic Dam will use.

    He then compares that number to a) BHP’s own figures for Olympic Dam’s energy consumption, and b) South Australia’s total electricity usage (which, obviously, will exceed Olympic Dam’s energy usage by a very considerable amount). As the calculated figure exceeds both a) and b), the conclusion he draws is that the model doesn’t reflect this instance of reality, and therefore has serious flaws.

    Does that make sense now?

  23. FDB says:

    I’d have though the fact that the amount of energy cited by L and S isn’t available in SA even if all other consumption ceased is a pretty good refutation.

  24. FDB says:

    Crossed agin, darnit!

  25. Craig Mc says:

    I can’t say I was surprised to read this. Just the sort of socialist blundering I feared before the election. Wouldn’t any sane person cost the policy before signing it?

  26. mick says:

    It’s been really interesting to hear the way that this has been reported here in Euroland. I’m in Austria this week and yesterday the lead news story on FM4 (the Austrian equivalent of JJJ) was Australia ratifying Kyoto. The view from here is that Australia is being welcomed back to the pack after years of flirting with the Republican crazies in Washington.

  27. Craig: short answer – three-fifths of bugger-all.

  28. bahnischba says:

    I get the impression that there is cheering all around the world about the change of government here. Anyway they seem to be rolling out the welcome mat at Bali:

    Indonesia’s Environment Minister and the UN’s head of the Bali conference, Rachmat Witoelar, said Australia would be given a seat at the negotiating table and invited to fully participate in talks on forging a new post-2012 treaty.

    The head of the European Commission’s delegation Artur Runge-Metzger said the EC was “certainly putting out the invitation” for Australia to play a full role in climate change negotiations.

    And they say that signing Kyoto was “just symbolic”.

  29. Craig Mc says:

    Robert: Slightly longer answer – if it’s costing New Zealand $750M, I imagine 3/5 of bugger-all will be a lot bigger than that.

  30. philiptravers says:

    Carbon taxes are not tariffs,and both could be applied wittingly to the world s population if the boy and girl wonders keep refusing to acknowledge the difference between capital investment and rigged government investment for the chosen few.Labor isnt socialist,Wong isnt Left Wing, the proteges of Keating are not Socialists.Rudd isnt a Socialist.Western Mining Corporation use to run Olympic Dam,doesnt this indicate something in itself about the alternative choices say coal and Nuke in the future!?The science of even the research on clean coal is dominated by the industry,by the pliant nature of the C.S.I.R.O. and Universities, which are not Socialist organizations, but tedious bureaus at best.And the bills sent to householders are not sent to allow users the right to claim some ownership in electricity production.It is more like the bull from the Electoral Commission,about having a say, or being immature and lacking responsibility.The problems of the present electrical grid are not analysed by anyone accept those deemed to be knowledgeable or have some right.The problems of overcoming the greenhouse gas emissions at coal fired power stations is outside the voters hands opinions analyses complaints protests,and even sabotage.And yet the word socialist is used in a very dirty way here…..what are you on about?

  31. Aubrey Meyer says:

    RE Contraction and Convergenc [C&C]

    Here is a link to an up-dated C&C animation GCI did for Hilary Benn at DEFRA [UK Minister/ry] as part of his preparation for Bali.

    This now includes the Hadley Cnetre ‘coupled carbon cycle models’ which corroborates the climate change risk analysis on the C&C DVD done for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change. These model runs make it clear that emissions need to go down to nearly net-zero by 2050/60.

    The C&C component assumes the fossil fuel contect of emissions against the back-drop of all emissions, as per the Hadely modelling.

    The ‘coupled’ 450 ppmv is mouse-touch sensitive for emphasis on demand [i.e. ‘touch’].

    The ‘carbon-arithmetic’ counting this in the animation is at: –

    or for Macs

  32. Craig: the “penalty” is likely to take the form of greater cuts to emissions in the future.

    We’re going to have to do that in any case.

    *Everyone* is going to go over their target, most by considerably more than Australia.

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