UN boss says ETS delays ‘don’t matter’
July 31, 2009
THE INTERNATIONAL community will care little if Australia skips its target date for finalising an emissions trading scheme (ETS), the head of the UN’s climate change office Yvo de Boer says.
Asked whether it mattered if Australia arrived in Copenhagen for climate change talks in December with an ETS in place – a key hope of the federal government – Mr de Boer replied: “Quite honestly, no”.
“What people care about in the international negotiations is the commitment that a government makes to take on a certain target,” he told ABC radio.
The Rudd government wants to go to the Danish capital with the details of its ETS locked in.
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said Australia’s negotiating position would be weakened if the ETS was not passed before Copenhagen.
But Mr de Boer said what mattered to the international community was the targets set, not the domestic policies implemented to meet them. Domestic policies remained domestic issues, he said.
Mr de Boer said he would be “very happy” after the Copenhagen meeting if industrialised nations committed to ambitious targets and that countries like China, India, Brazil and South Africa were to agree to cutting emissions.
He also noted that financial support was one of three key issues for a successful global offensive against climate change.
A vote on Australia’s ETS will take place in the Senate on August 13, but it’s not yet clear whether the opposition, which has the numbers in the upper house, will support the legislation.
The opposition was quick to jump on Mr de Boer’s statements, as was Family First’s Steve Fielding.
“There is no question that the emissions trading scheme should have its design finalised after Copenhagen, and we’ve been saying that all year,” Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said.
Senator Fielding said it would be economic suicide to act before December.
“I cannot believe the Prime Minister wants to put at risk thousands of jobs and our economy just so he can stand on his soap box at Copenhagen and say: ‘Look at me, look what I’ve done’.”
Climate Institute spokesman John Connor says he fears Mr de Boer’s comments will be hijacked by ETS opponents as further evidence the scheme can be delayed.
“If de Boer was asked: would it help to have it passed? I’m sure he would have said: yes,” he said.
The government has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 25 per cent from 2000 levels by the year 2020, while also committing to a global deal to hold atmospheric warming to within two degrees Celsius by 2050.
However, Australian National University scientist Andrew Macintosh, who spent months modelling 45 different climate change scenarios, said the two targets were not compatible.
Even if a 20 per cent cut was achieved by 2020, emissions would have to fall by an additional five per cent per year in order to reach the next target, he said.
“That’s just extremely unrealistic (unless) we find some magic technology,” he said.