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Token gestures are not enough

By Mary Jenkins - posted Thursday, 20 September 2007

Global warming, carbon trading and greenhouse gas emissions are something most people think have nothing to do with them. Well think again! It has everything to do with everyone all over the world.

Some have attempted to be carbon conscious and cut back on their energy use, some believe recycling is “doing their bit”. But personal cut backs are just a start in reducing greenhouse emissions. There is a long way to go, sooner rather than later. Families alone will not be able to make the required difference needed immediately. It is up to governments, business and industry to radically change their operations.

The world’s natural environment is under pressure like never before. John Howard’s APEC plan set a target for 2012 that is mere tokenism. It would take another five years to implement plans. Even then it may bring Australia to where their emission levels were in 1996. The world cannot afford to wait that long. Radical action must be undertaken to reduce emissions as soon as possible.


To reduce emissions will take more than changing light bulbs, recycling and solar heaters on the roof. Governments, industry and business sectors must make a concerted effort to find an effective solution to reduce their emissions. Governments’ huge surpluses, and business and shareholders’ huge profits must be redirected.

Investment in clean coal is still a big “if”: there are no guarantees. The promise of clean coal is an excuse to keep the wheels of profit and emissions churning for another decade. The greatest challenge facing humanity is to allocate investment to new technologies that can solve the problems the world faces.

Recently I attended a one-day forum at the University of Western Australia organised by the Conservation Council of WA and sponsored by BP, Archbishop Roger Herft and the Anglican Eco Commission. The purpose was to discuss emission trading models being proposed by Federal and State Government and the impact carbon trading will have on business, industry and the community.

Signing the Kyoto Protocol was just the beginning for the European Union. Marianne Dahle, UWA PhD student, spoke on the “Impact of an Emission Trading System for Individual Enterprises in the EU”. Too many inconsistencies between member states, poor communications and a reluctance to engage in rules and guidelines or a lack of interest in the environment are just a few of the EU problems. The first phase of their carbon trading scheme did not include transport: it will be included in the second phase. Carbon trading appears to be a very Catholic idea - the big corporations are able to sell off indulgences for the right to continue polluting. It does little to address the real increases in emissions or the consequences.

Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions in the world of greenhouse pollution. Refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol has led to Australia’s emissions increasing in the last decade. Australia’s present industrial operations are unsustainable and cannot be maintained.

The Kyoto Protocol clearly identifies the real need for a worldwide shift in thinking. During the last 50 years government and industry’s economic priorities have neglected the environment. The result is pollution which has escalated to crisis point while profits have become immoral.


Rising sea levels; drought; floods; melting ice caps; worldwide depletion of species and habitats; deforestation; tornadoes and so on, have led to increased costs for insurance worldwide. The CEO of the RAC Insurance Mike McCarthy said, “There is a doubt that the insurance industry will survive the increasing demands! Australia has no flood maps for natural disasters and recent flooding illustrated the huge problem for the insurance industry. Everyone must learn to adapt and innovate otherwise they may find they will not be covered by insurance in future,” he said.

Planners need to make sure houses are built sustainably and in safe places, not on the coastal edge, or near rivers or wetlands that are likely to flood.

The underdeveloped world is worse off. They may be forced, in vast numbers, to flee to look for safe shelter. Millions may end up in refuge camps for years with no hope of returning to their homes. They could flood into developed countries who will be finding it more difficult to sustain their own population. Housing, energy and water shortages, rising cost of health, education and welfare services are becoming the norm for western governments.

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About the Author

Mary Jenkins' Welsh background drives her social conscience and Celtic thirst for knowledge to work for justice and care for the earth and its communities. Retirement gives her the freedom to act local and think global. Mary is a retired TAFE lecturer who now works voluntary as secretary of various organisations within her community. As a mature student she graduated from Murdoch University with a BA in politics diploma of education and post graduate study in Theology and Ecofeminism.

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

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