Nelson is right, without a mechanism to limit the emissions of those countries, climate chaos is likely to destroy civilisation as we know it.
The good news is that Australia can provide that mechanism. We account for one third of global coal and iron exports, 43 percent of aluminium ore, and ten percent of the world’s base metals.
A carbon tax on the energy that we export would immediately bring China and Japan into a carbon trading scheme. A carbon tariff on all imported goods would complete the process, enforcing carbon trading at a global level while leaving developing countries free to expand their own economies.
The argument that this will disadvantage Australian energy exporters in the short term is a complete furphy. The world’s nations meet in Copenhagen next year to negotiate an agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol in 2012. The major obstacle to that agreement is the refusal of the world’s developed nations to commit to targets more ambitious than developing nations.
Carbon tariffs remove the unfair competitive advantage that the developing world’s manufacturing industries would have over the developed world, thereby encouraging nations, such as Australia, to rebuild their own manufacturing industries and reducing the carbon produced by transporting cheap goods around the world.
The Labor government has seen fit to avoid such bold action, because the energy sector, notably coal, which produces around ten percent of our export dollars, has such a strong grip on the governments of most mainland states.
In fact, any short-term negative impact on energy exports will be quickly made up as energy prices rise, local manufacturing picks up and the rest of the world joins the scheme.
Australia can break the nexus between the developed and developing world at the Copenhagen conference in 2009. We must insist that our political parties take the long term view, now.