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Kevin Rudd has failed his own test on climate change

By Owen Pascoe - posted Friday, 30 April 2010

When our prime minister likes a turn of phrase, he gives it a real hammering.

Over the last few years some of the most often heard lines from Kevin Rudd have been his appeal to the world to address the “great moral challenge” of climate change, his belief in “evidence-based policy” and his call for the carbon pollution reduction scheme to be passed in order to “to deliver certainty for business”.

His decision this week to delay until 2013 any attempt to start an emissions trading scheme makes a mockery of all three statements.


When most people think of addressing a great challenge, the picture of a government sitting on its hands for three years isn’t one that springs to mind.

In explaining its decision the Government has blamed Tony Abbott for changing the Coalition’s position, the Greens for opposing the scheme and slower than expected international action.

But tricky politics isn’t an excuse for abandoning a great moral challenge. Like all political situations, this one is temporary. Sean Macken from political consultants Hawker Britton recently told a public forum in Sydney that he finds it difficult to imagine a situation where the Greens don’t hold the balance of power following this year’s election.

While international efforts have been disappointing, more than 120 countries have now backed the Copenhagen Accord, showing a determination to build an international agreement to keep warming below two degrees.

International commitments already made are in line with the Rudd Government’s expectations for moving to a target to reduce emissions by 15 per cent by 2020. There is no international case for putting off action. What’s needed to build momentum is leadership and good examples.

So much for the great moral challenge. What about evidence-based policy?


 The evidence is overwhelming that nations like Australia must urgently reduce carbon pollution to avoid increasingly dangerous changes to the climate.

The evidence that carbon pricing is the most efficient and effective means of reducing emissions is nearly as difficult to ignore.

Opinion leaders as diverse as John Howard, Ross Garnaut and the Business Council of Australia all agree a price on carbon is the most effective way to cut emissions.

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About the Author

Owen Pascoe is a climate change campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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