Kyoto, why not again?

Last year, my daughter wrote a letter to the Prime Minister asking why Australia hadn’t signed the Kyoto Protocol? Here is the letter and here is an outline of the response from the PM. Specifically, he said to her that Australia was not signing it because so many others were not bound by it and so it would be too costly.

The PM’s taskforce on emissions trading and lots of statements in recent weeks suggest that it is a goal of the government to comply with the Kyoto limits. From the taskforce issues paper (p.2):

The Australian Government’s immediate policy objective is to achieve its Kyoto Protocol target of limiting emissions to 108% of 1990 levels in the period 2008‑12.

Hang on a minute! This is now their objective rather than, say, a hope. I thought the reason for not signing Kyoto is that the targets were (a) too costly and (b) a drop in the ocean anyway since it does not bind enough of the world. But if the government is happy with the targets, why not just sign Kyoto? The question is a little rhetorical as I suspect we all know the answer. And I certainly don’t object to the objective.

On the positive side, I must say that it is great to pick up the paper and hear a new idea or angle from a Minister for the Environment rather than a headline reporting something that was merely new to them. The last few weeks have been refreshing in that sense.

9 thoughts on “Kyoto, why not again?”

  1. ‘ And I certainly don’t object to the objective’

    Joshua, do you think that a 108% increase on 1990 levels is acceptable?


  2. ‘ Better than > 108% increase which was what has been talked about previously!’

    so again…

    Joshua, do you think that a 108% increase on 1990 levels is acceptable?


  3. Achieved this year. Absolutely.

    Come on, if you want precise answers then ask a precise question.

    Anyhow my suggested policy on this gets us to carbon neural as a country.


  4. a simple yes I think its acceptable or no I don’t would have been precise enough… but I digress.

    I’d be interested in having a look at your policy on going carbon neutral. Can you point me in the right direction?

    I’d also be interested to hear your thoughts on whether the geo-political and trade risks from adopting meaninless targets as well as the economic costs of setting emission targets that increase our reliance on fossil fuels outweigh the benefits of being an early adoption strategy involving developing technology to deploy aronud in the world in a market most would think is going to dominate the 21st century (i.e carbon!).

    [It is probably worth noting also that the major reasons we made the 108% target is becuase of structual changes in the economy (i.e we are shredding manufacturing in favour of importing finished goods) and changes to land clearing. Neither involve any meaninful long-term benefit I can see.]


  5. ‘Achieved this year. Absolutely’

    It might also be worth clarifying, given emissions are no an upward trend, are you suggesting that meeting an emission target early, where that target is an increase, is a good thing?

    This seems a strange position to take.


  6. Joshua, I admire that you see the issue so simply, but your plan oversimplifies a couple of important issues.

    To reduce our emissions at the price you suggest, requires demand for energy to stop increasing. As you suggest, it is possible to ‘offset’ emissions for around $16 a tonne. However not only do you need to pay for the offset, you need to supply future energy increases with clean sources also.

    Secondly, allocation of credits from forestry projects are allocated up front. It takes around 40-70 years for trees to reach maturity and hence absorb all the emissions you get allocated. This is bad carbon accounting as your emissions today will impact climate for those 40-70 years. Overlay the limited forest sink capacity in Australia, likely increases in drought/fire and forestry projects don’t look such a hot option.

    A reasonable price for carbon to encourage fuel switching and efficiency investments is around $25tonne so you’ve underestimated by about 65%. Then build in the cost of future energy from clean sources for an infinte period of time and steadily crank up the emission cuts you need to make heading into 2020/2030/2050 etc. Overlay population, developing nation living standard changes and globally think get tricky.

    Don’t get me wrong, i think going clean is better than kicking back and smoking coal and oil, but it is more expensive and complex than you suggest.

    Lets hope the govn. realises there is more money in the clean stuff than will ever be in the dirt stuff.


  7. it is probably also worth noting that our emission footprint goes beyond what we use in operating the economy. The vast amount of energy/emissions embodied in both imported goods and associated travel should be included in accounting for the emissions we need to cut.

    This reinforces the point that:
    ‘we made the 108% target becuase of structual changes in the economy (i.e we are shredding manufacturing in favour of importing finished goods’


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