April Fool's Day is traditionally a day
on which we all poke a bit of harmless
fun at each other. But in the current
global climate, it is worth reflecting
on the history of April Fool's and on
what we can learn from it.
The tradition is believed to have started
in France a little over 400 years ago,
when the new Gregorian calendar was adopted.
This calendar shifted the celebration
of New Year's Day from the first of April
to the first of January.
Of course, it took a long time for this
message to be communicated to the population.
Inevitably, there were also individuals
and groups who objected to the change
and refused to get in line. For many years
afterwards, people were still celebrating
New Year in April - people stuck in an
old, outmoded world and failing to move
with the times. The original "April
What better contemporary examples of
April fools are there, then, than those
who don't acknowledge that the age of
fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - should
come to an end because of global conflict,
air pollution and climate change concerns?
In focusing on climate change, for most
nations, the move to clean, renewable
sources of energy is seen as an opportunity,
creating jobs and securing a non-fossil-based
energy supply. If Australia makes the
right decisions now, we could become the
renewable energy powerhouse for the Asia-Pacific
Unfortunately, Prime Minister John Howard
is leading a government of fossil fools.
Time and again they have shown their contempt
for those already suffering from the impacts
of climate change by continuing massive
subsidies for fossil fuels but making
only token gestures of support for renewable
Recently, they ceased funding the Co-operative
Research Centre for Renewable Energy.
They have capped the rebate program for
the domestic purchase of solar panels
and have not committed to extending it
in the coming Federal Budget. And their
mandatory renewable energy target (known
as MRET), already lagging behind the world
at only 2 per cent, is facing an uphill
battle to be increased.
The MRET commenced two years ago and
has already made a small but significant
impact, stimulating the growth of the
renewable energy industry in Australia.
However, it has since been overtaken by
larger and better-designed targets around
the world - for example, 10 per cent in
the UK, 20 per cent in Denmark and California
and even 7.5 per cent in Texas!
One of the undisputed leaders in the
development of renewable energy is Germany.
But they haven't reached the position
they are in by luck or by accident - they
planned it well with a package of supportive
Watch Institute has noted that at
the beginning of the 1990s Germany had
virtually no renewable energy industry
and few ever thought of Germany becoming
a world leader in this area. Yet in only
a decade, and with a fraction of the resource
potential of Australia, Germany has been
transformed into a renewable energy giant
responsible for creating a multi-billion
dollar industry and tens of thousands
This evolution provides useful lessons
for Australia, demonstrating the need
for governments to create a supportive
framework for companies to invest in new
renewable energy developments.
Even the US, which along with Australia
has the most backward position on climate
change, is the third largest solar producer
in the world and produces moer than 45
times the wind power that Australia does,
largely because of state-based policies.
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