11 January, 2006

Hot air in Australia

So the U.S. and Australia, the only two Kyoto holdouts in the world, are putting together an alternative climate change coalition along with India, China, Japan and South Korea.* They're calling it the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. To me it seems something like a well-written farce. The premise of the partnership is that real action on climate change will be driven by industry and new technology, not by government regulation.

Playing the part of Head Clown was U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who told reporters, ""It's really the private sector, the companies that own the assets, that make the financial allocations, that are ultimately going to be the solvers of the problems." His best joke was this: "I believe that the people who run the private sector, they too have children and they too have grandchildren. They too live and breathe in the world and they would like things dealt with effectively." This should pass without commentary, I think.

The favorite technology being pushed by this coalition is "clean coal", which we've previously insulted here (mostly by describing it). Clean coal, you'll recall, is expected to come to market, optimistically, in ten years' time, which might coincide nicely with Tuvalu being completely submerged.

Be sure to note that the coalition will not set any targets for countries to meet, and will instead rely on a "non-binding compact" to reduce emissions. They won't even include the sort of carbon credits trading favored by Kyoto. One has to wonder what sort of incentive is there going to be for development of low-emissions technology in the complete absence of any regulatory pressure. In fact, this seems like nothing so much as a bid to allow foreign investment into difficult-to-reach corners of the four Asian countries. Never lose an opportunity to engage in some shameless capitalism at the world's expense.

* This might be news to China, India, Japan and Korea, all Kyoto signatories who perceive this as a complement, not an alternative, to Kyoto. Meanwhile, however, the Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell explicitly stated that this would be an "alternative", and it's hard to see how the anti-Kyoto Bush administration could see this as anything other than a way to cloak their inaction.


You're quite right of course - this farcical polluter's summit is all about expanding or maintaining markets. Australia is the worlds largest coal exporter, and Japan, Korea and India are three of the largest buyers of that coal. "Forget renewables, just keep buying our coal while we all work on this 'clean coal' thing over the next couple of decades. Perhaps you'd also be interested in a little more of our uranium too?"

Posted by nappingbunyip

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