Gillards climate change policy, no great help for Samoa

23/08/2010 00:23

By Cherelle Jackson

It comes to no surprise really, that the new Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has pitched yet another delaying tactic on climate change actions by Australia.

The political games on climate change though entertaining for world media is not a joke for Pacific islanders and Samoans.

Gillard declared last week: “The science tells us that we need to limit the growth of carbon pollution in our atmosphere to 450 ppm [parts per million] if we are going to have a chance of limiting global temperature growth to two degrees or less. That in turn helps to explain the commitment that the Australian government has made, to cut our pollution levels by at least five percent by 2020 compared to our pollution levels in 2000.”

It’s almost as if she is saying all is good, and Australia is one complying nation when in fact the Australian government’s five percent reduction by 2020 is miles away from climate scientists’ recommendations.

It’s a known fact, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that in order to restrict atmospheric carbon concentration to 450 ppm, advanced capitalist economies like Australia required a 25 to 40 percent reduction.

That means Australias pledged pollution cut would need to be multiplied by 5 to 8 times before it becomes a legitimate action on climate change.

Gillard failed to acknowledge scientific advice that stabilising carbon pollution at 450 parts per million (ppm) merely gives a 50 percent chance of avoiding an average world temperature increase of two degrees Celsius.

She also did not admit that growing numbers of climate and independent scientists are warning that this two-degree benchmark must be lowered, given the significant environmental impact of the 0.8 degree temperature rise recorded since the pre-industrial era.

Australia also did not recognize climate scientists who argue that the upper limit of atmospheric carbon concentration is 350 rather than 450 ppm.

There is no doubt Gillard has a great responsibility to boost Australias efforts on climate change, as her coal-reliant nation has the highest per capita levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world.

But that’s not all, currently Australia is the highest carbon emitting country in the Pacific, responsible for 1.2% of global emissions, and ranked 16th highest emitter worldwide, while Pacific islands combined account for a mere 0.03% of overall emissions.

Critics the world over are demanding action from Australia including, Oxfam who say that it’s time the continent owns up.

"I think any Government who is serious about taking the Pacific islands into account needs to call very strongly for warming to stay as far below as 2% as possible. The 5-15 per cent target below 2000 levels would not be credible for Australia, it would indicate that Australia is looking for other countries to pick up their slack and do the heavy lifting for them,” said Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator Julie-Anne Richards.

Let’s hope for better things from Gillard in the next few months, because in regards to climate change, her leadership hasn’t exactly been riveting.