The representatives of 5.3 billion people have signed the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force yesterday. Australia did not, neither did the United States.
So what does it mean for Australia, its economy, society and natural treasures?
Acres of news print now and in the future will expound the benefits and deficiencies of such a global pact. It’s not an easy task. Who could accurately predict the protocol’s utility in the current climate of international uncertainties?
Saving light, beacon of hope, the biggest barking dog of all international talkfests, call it what you like. But do take the opportunity to ponder what is heading our way.
A key question is: Where do Australians stand on the monumental changes and challenges to our way of life? Signing up to Kyoto and making concerted efforts to mitigate climate change or not, change is still imminent.
We see five main points business and community leaders must keep uppermost in their minds as they assess the real risks over the coming years.
The first is an awareness of and willingness to take action on the twin realities of Adaptation and Mitigation of climate change. Like it or not, understand it or not, some species are adapting to global warming - as are the front runners of the international business ecosystem. Some will be successful, others don’t have a hope.
Humans are the only species that can mitigate the affects of climate change - the best, the most flexible and forward-looking among us are on to it already, but this task is impossible without monumental shifts in political courage and business leadership.
Ask yourself: What will you do on your watch? Take action to help prevent devastating losses - help aid the adaptation to a changing climate that humankind has already set in train? Or resign yourself to evolution, soon to be set in amber like a pre-history mosquito.
In Australia, one of our best hopes is that the States realise how much of the burden of climate change they carry. How will the Victorian, NSW and Queensland governments cope when the frequency of billion dollar droughts like that of 2002 is doubled or tripled with climate change? Water supplies to feed thirsty cities reduce, rural communities suffer, a way of life is lost and the States pay for it.
There is no doubt Federal leadership is essential if Australia is to make this quantum leap, equally there is no doubt both mitigation and adaptation lie in State political leadership. Welcoming in renewable energy, rejecting further polluting businesses and pushing through energy efficiencies must be at the top of their agenda. Water efficiencies and water use reform is a key adaptation they are already making.
The States and the Federal government must find a way to go forward on these critical issues “no matter what happens”.
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