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Shipping Oars

shipping oars

Tony Abbott’s brief sojourn in Davos left most of us cringing and somewhat bemused as to the purpose of his journey. He met with some Australian big business leaders and delivered a speech that had nothing to do with the stated priorities of the forum – the problem of increasing income inequality and the economics of climate change. Le Figaro noted Abbott’s address as a footnote, quoting him as calling for more free trade, an idea that was a long way from the agenda – très loin de la thématique – of earlier gatherings. In fact, Tony left before any of these meetings took place.

But he did fit in a few personal meetings.

With Peta Credlin glued to his side, Abbott showed his ignorance of geography and total ineptitude at small talk when meeting with World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab. Tony had lined up for his usual photo shoot and looked around with a silly grin as Professor Schwab turned and walked away in a kind of WTF moment as Tony kept waffling on. Peta leant forward looking like a nervous mother whose child has forgotten his lines in the school play.

Apparently the Dutch Prime Minister also requested a meeting. Tony suggested it was a meet-and-greet but I suspect there was a bit more to it than that. The Netherlands are strong advocates for action on climate change and a leader in guiding the developing world to sustainable energy practices.

While serving as EU Council President in 2004, the Dutch promoted their “Clean, Clever, Competitive” approach and, in 2005, led EU environmental ministers to “propose that developed countries should consider reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 15-30% by 2020 and 60-80% by 2050”.

Economic efficiency is heavily promoted in this approach as the Dutch government states “the Kok report assumes the position that environmental innovation is good for the economy and employment..…[and views] the environment as an opportunity to improve European competitiveness.”

The first green tax on energy in the Netherlands was introduced in 1996. Funds collected are funnelled back into the economy through financial incentives for increased energy efficiency and renewable energy. Sound familiar?

Tony also had yet another meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister. We know he didn’t mention the whales, so what did they discuss? Aside from his unseemly haste to give up our sovereign right to make our own laws by granting corporations the right to sue us (something Philip Morris is already doing re our plain packaging laws), I suspect that Tony is looking for supporters for his backing away from emission reduction targets.

Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest emitter, had pledged to reduce emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels come 2020, on condition that other industrialised countries made similar pledges. Following the Fukushima fallout, imports of oil and gas have soared. It is estimated that just two of Japan’s 54 reactors are online, a sharp reduction for an industry that once supplied 30 percent of the country’s electricity.

Not unexpectedly, on 10 December 2010, the Japanese indicated that they did not intend to be under the obligation of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.

Tony is also in frequent contact with his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper. Under the Copenhagen Accord, Canada was committed to reducing its GHG emissions to a level 17 percent below the 2005 level by year 2020. However, on 13 December 2011, Canada formally withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol stating that they could only be a part of an accord, which includes all major emitters as parties.

Russia, the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the US, also announced 2 years ago that it did not intend to assume the quantitative emissions limitation or reduction commitment (QELRC) that binds Annex I countries, for the second commitment period.

Together, Canada, Japan and Russia account for 29.2 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The future of the Kyoto Protocol–and indeed the entire climate regime–is on the line as big emitters formally withdraw their participation, putting the world at peril. Pulling out of Kyoto now also allows countries to avoid penalties for missing targets.

The pulling out of major emitters means the UNFCCC will look to Asia’s largest emitters–China and India–to play an increasingly significant role in determining the success of the multilateral climate change regime. China has already overtaken the US as the world’s largest CO2 emitter. India is poised to overtake Russia as the third-largest emitter in the near future. Given their huge populations, which jointly cover almost two-fifth of the world population, it is hardly surprising the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that China and India will account for 45 percent of global energy demand growth by 2030. Success at climate negotiations will not be forthcoming unless the key concerns of these Asian countries – particularly challenges pertaining to inequities–are sufficiently taken into account in the future development of climate change.

Distribution of global emissions reinforces the need for broad multilateral cooperation in mitigating climate change. Fifteen to twenty countries are responsible for roughly 75 percent of global emissions. Efforts to cut emissions—mitigation—must therefore be global. Without international cooperation and coordination, some states may free ride on others’ efforts, or even exploit uneven emissions controls to gain competitive advantage. And because the impacts of climate change will be felt around the world, efforts to adapt to climate change—adaptation—will need to be global too.

The perceived lack of leadership by central players in the climate change debate—especially the United States—has elicited increasing concern about the long term prospects of the global climate change regime. Although delegations at Durban, Cancun, and Copenhagen developed reporting mechanisms, funding pledges, and unilaterally declared country-specific emissions reduction goals, the ongoing lack of an international enforcement body has left these promises largely empty. Countries, including Australia, have reneged on their pledged contributions to the Green Climate Fund which was established to help developing countries cope with climate change.

In contrast to this, there is a growing view among business leaders and mainstream economists who see global warming as a force that contributes to lower gross domestic products, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains and increased financial risk. Their position is at striking odds with the longstanding argument, advanced by the coal industry and others, that policies to curb carbon emissions are more economically harmful than the impact of climate change.

In Philadelphia this month, the American Economic Association inaugurated its new president, William D. Nordhaus, a Yale economist and one of the world’s foremost experts on the economics of climate change.

“There is clearly a growing recognition of this in the broader academic economic community,” said Mr. Nordhaus, who has spent decades researching the economic impacts of both climate change and of policies intended to mitigate climate change.

In Washington, the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, has put climate change at the center of the bank’s mission, citing global warming as the chief contributor to rising global poverty rates and falling G.D.P.’s in developing nations. In Europe, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Paris-based club of 34 industrialized nations, has begun to warn of the steep costs of increased carbon pollution.

Nike, which has more than 700 factories in 49 countries, many in Southeast Asia, is also speaking out because of extreme weather that is disrupting its supply chain. In 2008, floods temporarily shut down four Nike factories in Thailand, and the company remains concerned about rising droughts in regions that produce cotton, which the company uses in its athletic clothes.

Coca-cola lost a lucrative operating license in India because of a serious water shortage there in 2004 and, today, after a decade of increasing damage to Coke’s balance sheet as global droughts dried up the water needed to produce its soda, the company has embraced the idea of climate change as an economically disruptive force.

“Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years,” said Jeffrey Seabright, Coke’s vice president for environment and water resources, listing the problems that he said were also disrupting the company’s supply of sugar cane and sugar beets, as well as citrus for its fruit juices. “When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats.”

It has been unquestionably shown that the fossil fuel industry is funding the climate change denial debate as well as making significant financial contributions to political parties and advertising campaigns to protect their vast wealth. The fact that 85 individuals have the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people in the world is testament to the “trickle-down effect” being a farce.

If you want to boost the economy, start taxing the superprofits of mining companies and banks, start collecting the tax owed by individuals who hide their money in off-shore tax havens, and address the income inequity that sees 17.2% of Australian children living in poverty. If you want to create jobs then expand the renewable energy industry and give us an NBN that allows us to be competitive and to create whole new areas of endeavour. Invest in education and trades training for the industries of the future.

Instead of all standing on the edge saying “You first”, be a leader – that is your job – start pulling your weight. It is only governments who can save us from corporate greed and it is governments who must demand and legislate for action on climate change. We only have a short time to get this right and unless you all recognise the precipice towards which we are hurtling and start rowing together to avoid it, you will be condemned as those who shipped oars and let us crash.



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  1. Terry2

    Most of the worlds’ press ignored Abbott’s keynote speech at the G20, not so much as a rude gesture as I see it but because he pointedly ignored them and evidently refused to hold a press conference before heading back to Oz.
    What were his advisers thinking that they would not let him free with the worlds’ media to introduce himself and press home his vision and aspirations for his presidency of this important world body.

    It’s all very well to say that they won’t let him out unscripted unless it is good old 2GB but come on, this man is, for better or worse, the Prime Minister of Australia and the 2014 Chair/President of one of the worlds’ leading economic forums. If he can’t be trusted not to goof then he has to go.

  2. edward eastwood

    Great post Kaye, unfortunately it will fall on deaf ears as far as Abbott is concerned.
    While even mega-corporations such as Coke and Nike are waking up the fact that there are no jobs on a dead planet, Abbott and his ilk are determined to pursue the ne-liberal line that the economy is a living entity which left to its own devices and without government intervention will deliver blessings and bounty to all, and as long as people recognize that both populace and environment are subordinate to ‘market forces’, everything will work out for the best.
    Despite being discredited and the growing movement against its principles, Abbott and Co. are determined to push this twisted ideology to its limits in the same manner as Stalinist doctrine insisted that if the results didn’t fit the ideology, then the results had to be changed – not the ideology.
    Were Abbott and Credlin around at the time of Galileo, they would have been the most rabid and extreme exponents of the ‘flat earth’ theory.
    There are none so blind as those who obstinately refuse to see.

  3. bjkelly1958

    Thank you, Kaye. I strikes me that more than shipping the oars, the Abbott led government has attached a large and powerful outboard motor and is steering directly at the precipice, whilst looking adamantly backwards. The salivating eagerness Abbott expresses when talking of singing up to the TPP should be a clear indication to all Australians that this treaty can do us nothing but harm. Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as a free trade agreement.
    As for the treatment of asylum seekers, I don’t accept that 60% of Australians feel such enmity towards them. Certainly 60% of those polled on that one occasion did, but I believe the majority of Australians are better than that. The greatest problem for asylum seekers is the government’s bellicose attitude towards them and the fact it is echoed daily by the likes of Jones and Bolt. What the latter, and the rest of the MSM do is instil an irrational fear, then offer targets for that fear. (Not that I need to tell you that.)

  4. Matters not.

    … UNFCCC will look to Asia’s largest emitters–China and India–to play an increasingly significant …

    While the nations of China and India are large polluters in any national comparison they are certainly not big polluters on a per capita basis. If any global agreement on cutting emissions can be reached, then per capita emissions must enter the equation.

    It’s simply not fair to ask a Chinese citizen who emits on average less than 10 tons per year to take the same percentage cut to say a citizen from Qatar who emits something in the order of 60 tons per year.

    In that sense it’s somewhat misleading to talk in terms of national emissions. The citizens of China and India are not the real culprits. Those who reside in developed economies such as the US and Australia must take a goodly portion of the blame, particularly when we are blessed with so many resources that allow for renewable power.

  5. Billy moir

    I find it so sad that we argue about fossil fuels emissions when Australians have become rich enough on hydrocarbons to be greedy and gorge on carbohydrates whilst denying others such riches. Imagine funding the CSIRO to develop renewable energy sources and getting a dollar a month from Asia??

  6. JohnB

    Great post Kaye,
    Thank you for your most important work of providing much needed truth and sanity that our popular media is unwilling to publish.
    That the truth is feared so much that it must be obfuscated and suppressed by MSM says much about their own awareness of the immorality of their operations.

  7. diannaart

    Excellent work Kaye Lee – which needed saying and needs to be spread.

    About Abbott’s lack of engagement with other leaders – I wonder if Abbott absented himself more than he was actually snubbed? The Netherlands PM’s request to meet with Abbott indicates a desire to explain a few facts to the Rabbott, I posit that Mark Rutte would not be alone. From what I can discover, Abbott didn’t make himself very available – probably didn’t want to be filmed with his hands over his ears, crying “lalalalalalalalalalalalaaa”.

  8. Peter Hamrol

    Go ABBOTT … The more you make a fool of yourself in front of the other national leaders of the world the more the chances are that you will lose the next election miserably … The world has had enough of your Department of Silly Walks attitude and I think us Australians are wearing a bit thin with your hollow rhetoric as well …

  9. Hadden Nuff

    The fact of the matter is that Prime Minister Abbott was congrtulated by his peers on the stage for his speech…you are just exhibiting that truism…there are none so blind as those who will not see. I strongly support our PM, and strongly oppose the green/left/socialists whom the majotiry of Australians just voted out of government…remember that?

  10. scotchmistery

    Well commented Haddenuff. As a member of the real mojorititty of Australians, including the unkempt, unemployed breeders of the west of Sydney, who are, like you, a net non-contributor to the economy, your views are about as defined as anyone who doesn’t think before voting.

    One assumes, rightly or wrongly, that you vote above the line in keeping with your inability to grasp even a smidging of what we grown-ups are discussing, so please, back in the kitchen making tea for your hero, the boiled lolly guzzling embarrassment that persons such as yourself refer to as PM.

  11. Kaye Lee

    Actually Hadden Nuff, Klaus Schwab was the only other person on stage with Tony so I am not sure which peers you are talking about. I gather you didn’t actually watch the speech?

  12. Just asking

    I read the woofle in The Australian. Apparently, several Aust Business leaders said that Abbott was great.
    Hmmm, did anyone from another country say that he was great?


  13. Kaye Lee

    The New York Times has extensive coverage of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, with a dedicated web page and many feature articles exploring the key themes and major players. None mentions Abbott — who, by virtue of the high regard for his predecessor, finds himself the accidental president of the G20 for 2014.

    Le Télégramme, L’Humanité and Le Parisien in France published stories from the WEF but completely ignored Abbott. L’Agence France-Presse filed multiple reports profiling the contributors, but excluding Abbott.

    Le Figaro focussed on the speech by International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde who addressed constructively the new dangers – nouveaux risques – threatening global recovery. These are, she said, deflation in Europe, tapering of US monetary policy and distortions in global financial markets.

    With an embarrassed cough, Le Figaro noted Abbott’s address as a footnote, quoting him as calling for more free trade, an idea that was a long way from the agenda – très loin de la thématique – of earlier gatherings.

    Les Echos did mention the keynote speech, reporting that the thrust of Australia’s G20 presidency will be free trade. It noted it was odd Abbott didn’t mention the World Trade Organisation.

    The Guardian in Britain headlined its piece “Does Tony Abbott always make the same speech?” and reported that it “struck a familiar tone and was criticised for being inappropriately partisan.”

    Indeed, Abbott’s reputation as a buffoon appears to have preceded him to Davos.

    The Financial Times UK’s economics editor, Chris Giles, tweeted:

    ‘Sign of the times. [Iran’s President Hassan]Rouhani packed out the hall. Everyone is leaving before Tony Abbott explains Australia’s ambitions for the G20 in 2014.’,6098

  14. Matters not.

    Hadden Nuff said:

    Abbott was congratulated (sic) by his peers

    And the evidence is? And the meaning you give to ‘peer’ is?

    But it matters not. As for:

    there are none so blind as those who will not see

    I agree. And in spades. You provide the evidence. As for:

    I strongly support our PM

    I have no doubt about that. Both he and you are on the same plane. It’s plain to see.

    But you might be interested in the rest of the historical quote.

    The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know

    Just a question. Why did PM Abbott leave Davos before the main theme of the meeting was discussed? Or to put it more simple terms, why did he cut and run?

  15. Trevor Vivian

    Thanks for a thoughtfull article Kaye Lee. This article gets some of the way to the nub of the issue regarding PM Abbott and his wrecking crew. How much damage can Abbott enforce on future Australians in signing TPP? Abbott’s agenda as opposition leader was to destroy. As much as I disliked the ex Liberal Hansen it was Abbott who set out and activated her destruction on false charges, probably at the behest of PM Howard. PM Abbott is doing the bidding of who? Abbotts speech a rehash of six years in opposition at Davos. I believe that without major changes to the voting system in Australia then the electorate will continue to be faced with more of the same. In the 80’s I and others tried with green labour only to be f’ed over by Labour Party suits as we had upset the numbers at the conference in Hobart. From that came theGreens. Have recently returned from Tasmania where in the burbs the negative stereo typing of the greens has gone down a treat and any policy convo elicits wails of the green did it. Shade of federal Abbott story. Now the preference whisperers have the parties in a tizz as their game is coopted against the wishes of Labour and Liberal. So where does it all go, more of same from Abbots crew as they seriously do not give two hoots about anything but their unspoken agenda. This week it’s the dole bludger rerun and wicked welfare reciepients. By the time 3yrs passes I despair at the outcome being promoted . I know this country has good people but too much apathy for too long leads to societal delusion as a narrative. Complaining doesn’t cut to the solution so maybe the great Australian apathy will. Politics is certain to provide more of the same, division; alienation; dysfunction; oppression; As individuals, without a unifying narrative there is no power base. Perhaps that’s now proper as in the past the power of individuals combined has been coopted be by the political parties.

  16. CMMC

    The Abbott regime are behaving like the cabal of contractors who occupied the “Green Zone” outside Baghdad.

    These lobbyists, who don’t need to officially declare that they are lobbyists, are being handed control of the nation to reshape as they see fit.

  17. hannahquinn

    Abbott has his own agenda and it is hard to understand, other than it is based on short term profit and religious ‘ostrich’ head burying, i.e. blind faith in non-science.

  18. diannaart

    We are not alone.

    The Canadian government has and continues to wage war on science and knowledge – take a little time out, watch this video and wonder if it wasn’t for all the snow this is Australia:

  19. Kaye Lee

    Yes Stephen Harper and Liberal PM’s have history. In 2006 Howard visited Canada and convinced Harper to withdraw support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He is also backing Bishop’s support for the illegal settlements in the Occupied territories, has backed away from the Kyoto agreement, and is being sued by mining companies and pharmaceutical firms under the free trade agreements Canada has with the States. No wonder he and Tony get on so well.

  20. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    As was stated in the video Canada and Australia, by dismantling their science ministries, advisers and scuttling subsidies are travelling full steam without a radar, blacked out windows and I’m guessing the brakes are a bit faulty too.

  21. Pingback: Climate change: one way that things have improved | Mark Juddery

  22. Big Al

    The last two paragraphs in the article are spot-on.

  23. Buff McMenis

    We would if we could!!! 🙁 Only thing is we have one of the worst apologists in the world for Climate Change denial as our Leader, our Prime Minister! And he is backed by stupid, racist, bigoted and totally unacceptable people who have been promoted for personal benefit by one of the world’s richest men .. and one of the most influential in Australia as he owns 75% of our media outlets and wants another 20% NOW!!

  24. Pingback: Tony Abbott’s pathetic performance at Davos, on climate change « Antinuclear

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