THE head of the world’s leading climate change organization has backed the Howard Government’s decision to defer setting a long-term target for reducing greenhouse emissions until the full facts are known.
>Despite widespread criticism of the Government’s decision last month to defer its decision on cutting emissions until next year, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said yesterday he agreed with the approach.
>IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, in Canberra to meet government officials, said it was critical that policies to address climate change be rolled out only after informed debate based on rational thinking and rigorous analysis of the impact of different options.
>"Otherwise one might come up with a lot of emotional and political responses that may or may not be the best, and I think in a democracy it’s important to see there is an informed debate in officialdom as well as in the public," Dr Pachauri told The Australian yesterday.
>"One would also have to look at the macroeconomic effects — will that result in a decline in jobs and economic output?"
>The Coalition and Labor have committed to the introduction of emissions trading from about 2011, based on a long-term reduction target.
>However, the scale and timing of the cuts have emerged as key differences between the major parties, with Labor committed to a 60 per cent cut in greenhouse emissions by 2050, while the Coalition will wait until next year for detailed analysis to be completed.
>Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull last night welcomed Dr Pachauri’s endorsement of the Government’s approach. "We make no apology for taking care to carefully assess the economic impact of different levels of emissions reductions and different techniques of achieving them," Mr Turnbull said.
>"I don’t criticise Labor for saying there has to be a big cut in emissions. The big question is how do you get there?"
>Dr Pachauri was more downbeat on the prospects of the APEC summit in Sydney next month being able to deliver any concrete outcomes on climate change. He suggested more significant reforms may come from a climate change forum, announced last week by US President George W. Bush and to be held at the end of next month, which appears increasingly likely to upstage any "Sydney Declaration" being proposed out of APEC.
>Dr Pachauri, one of the world’s most respected climate change policy experts, said APEC was unlikely to deliver any concrete commitments on climate change reductions.
>"If there is an (APEC) declaration that demonstrates intent to do things and some agreement on the kind of destination that we are seeking, that might be useful," he said.
>"I doubt if you will get a declaration that involves any concrete actions."
>By contrast, he said, the involvement of Mr Bush in the US forum for major emitters, including China and India, could drive progress in key UN negotiations to establish a strategy to reduce emissions. The UN talks will resume in Bali in November.
>"If we can get all the participants in that (the US) meeting to agree to some kind of a long-term vision …that would be a major achievement."
>Labor environment spokesman Peter Garrett said Labor agreed with Dr Pachauri’s comments and had already commissioned analysis by economist Ross Garnaut to guide future policy.
>"Dr Pachauri’s comments broadly affirm what Labor has been saying about the UNFCC meeting and the importance of the Bali conference," he said.