3 December 2003

Death knell for the Kyoto treaty

Fifteen years of international effort to combat climate change appeared doomed last night after Russia said it would not ratify the Kyoto protocol, the world treaty on global warming.

Russian ratification is necessary for the treaty to take effect. Andrei Illarionov, a senior economic adviser to President Vladimir Putin, said in a surprise announcement in Moscow that Russia was refusing to sign the agreement, because to do so would threaten the country's economic growth.

The decision means the collapse of the mechanism, agonisingly constructed by thousands of officials from more than 150 countries over a decade and a half, for the world to try to deal with its greatest threat.

United Nations scientists now predict that global average temperatures may rise by up to 6C by the end of the century in a profound climatic destabilisation that will result in fiercer storms and rising sea levels.

The death of Kyoto is a good case of how bad policy can drive out good. The international scientific consensus says global warming is happening. I am not aware of any independent scientific voices saying that it is not.

The Howard government's rejection of Kyoto was driven by the belief that Kyoto would effect our economy adversely. That is not an open and shut case. Business was not unanimous in backing a decision not to ratify.

The real economy has to be sustainable. Australia has the frailest hydrology of any continent. The job numbers do not look good if you factor in the increase in extreme weather events which is already happening. We do not have to wait for doomsday scenarios to know that.

No comments: