Tuesday, 30 September 2014

U.S. Slate Magazine - The Saudi Arabia of the South Pacific: How Australia became the dirtiest polluter in the developed world

Australians like to think of themselves as green. Their island country boasts some 3 million square miles of breathtaking landscape. They were an early global leader in solar power. They’ve had environmental regulations on the books since colonial times. And in 2007 they elected a party and a prime minister running on a “pro-climate” platform, with promises to sign the Kyoto Protocol and pass sweeping environmental reforms. All of which makes sense for a country that is already suffering the early effects of global warming.
And yet, seven years later, Australia has thrown its environmentalism out the window — and into the landfill.
The climate-conscious Labor Party is out, felled by infighting and a bloodthirsty, Rupert Murdoch–dominated press that sows conspiracy theories about climate science. In its place, Australians elected the conservative Liberal Party, led by a prime minister who once declared that “the climate argument is absolute crap.”
In the year since they took office, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Liberal-led coalition have already dismantled the country’s key environmental policies. Now they’ve begun systematically ransacking its natural resources. In the process, they’ve transformed Australia from an international innovator on environmental issues into quite possibly the dirtiest country in the developed world. And in a masterful whirl of the spin machine, they’ve managed to upend public debate by painting climate science as superstition and superstition as climate science. (We should note here that one of us grew up in Australia.)
The country’s landmark carbon tax has been repealed. The position of science minister has been eliminated. A man who warns of “global cooling” is now the country’s top business adviser. In November, Australia will host the G-20 economic summit; it plans to use its power as host to keep climate change off the official agenda.
If the environment has become Australia’s enemy, fossil fuels are its best friend once again. Two months after it struck down the carbon tax, the government forged a deal with a fringe party led by a mining tycoon to repeal a tax on mining profits. It appointed a noted climate-change skeptic — yes, another one — to review its renewable energy targets. Surprise: He’s expected to slash them. Independent modeling in a study commissioned by the Climate Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation, and WWF-Australia finds that the cuts to renewable energy won’t reduce Australians’ energy bills. They will, however, gift the country’s coal and gas industry another $8.8 billion U.S.
At a time when solar power is booming worldwide, sunny Australia is rolling back its state-level subsidies (despite domestic success) and canceling major solar projects. Meanwhile, the government has given the go-ahead to build the nation’s largest coal mine, with an eye toward boosting coal exports to India.   
Did we mention that Australians’ per-capita carbon emissions are the highest of any major developed country in the world? Welcome to the Saudi Arabia of the South Pacific. No, Australia isn’t a theocracy, and oil isn’t the source of its fossil-fuel riches. But it is the world’s second-largest exporter of coal and third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, and minerals and fuels account for nearly 50 percent of its export revenues. Its per-capita carbon emissions actually exceed those of Saudi Arabia. And its behavior of late is beginning to bear an ugly resemblance to those petro-states whose governments seem to exist chiefly to guarantee the spectacular profits of the fossil-fuel industry…….
Read the full article here.

Excerpt from Pulitzer Prize-winning Inside Climate News article Canada-Australia 'Axis of Carbon' an Obstacle to Climate Pact:

Their prime ministers mince no words in their disdain for putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions to protect their fossil fuel exports….. Official data shows that neither Canada nor Australia can claim to be on track toward meeting their existing greenhouse gas emissions goals, modest as they are….. John Gummer, chairman of the UK Committee on Climate Change, was even more direct as he bashed Canada, and especially Australia, in an interview this summer with Australian television.
“Only Australia and to some extent Canada, but particularly Australia, is actually going backwards,” he said. “Australia now has miserable targets….. way out of line of any other advanced country and that's a very sad thing…. Australia has also been lambasted for attempting to keep climate change off the agenda when the G20 nations meet in Brisbane in November. It’s a tactic that Harper pioneered a few years ago when the G20 met in Toronto, to the considerable irritation of diplomats including Ban Ki-moon.
“Australia has been widely criticised for dropping climate change from the agenda on the basis that it is not an economic issue,” the Centre for Economic Development Australia said in an August report. “Climate change is a G20 litmus test as well as a test of Australia’s role. It is a problem with a global consequence requiring collective action.”…..

Read the full article here.

It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. So if readers are still in any doubt as to how the world now views Australia under an Abbott Government, this was the cold reception Foreign Minister Julie Bishop received at the U.N. Climate Summit on 23 September 2014:

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