It comes as two Australian climate experts say that climate change is the moral issue of our time, requiring action, above all else. Climate scientist Will Steffan and climate change economist Frank Jotzo also say financial support for developed nations' responses to climate change is vital. Professor Steffan and Doctor Jotzo were among two-thousand-five-hundred delegates from 80 countries at last week's climate conference in Copenhagen.
Presenter: Linda Mottram
Senator Penny Wong, Australia's Climate Change minister; Professor Will Steffan, climate scientist, Australian National University; Dr Frank Jotzo, climate economist, Australian National University
WONG: We have been clear that 15 per cent is something we have been prepared to put on the table...
MOTTRAM: The angry politics of climate change in Australia, as the country's Climate Change minister, Penny Wong, lashes out in the Parliament at suggestions her proposed emissions trading scheme doesn't go far enough.
WONG: These are exactly the sorts of issues which need to be negotiated in the context of an international agreement...
MOTTRAM: Elsewhere in the building, a more sedate gathering discussed the outcome of last week's meeting of climate change scientists, economists, social policy analysts and others in Copenhagen. That meeting heard that the latest science indicates sea level rise will likely be much higher than thought .. at least a metre by century's end. Professor Will Steffan from the Australian National University in Canberra was at that meeting and at the briefing in Canberra for Australian members of parliament.
STEFFAN: But the science is quite clear, and that's this sense of urgency that we are tracking at the upper limits of the IPCC projections.
MOTTRAM: Amid discussion of a possible ice-free artic summer soon and the prospect that the Greenland ice-sheet may yet completely melt, the climate experts said delaying action on climate change would only make it more expensive in the long-run. Doctor Frank Jotzo, climate economist, also from the Australian National University, said economies need certainty.
JOTZO: It would be frankly quite counterproductive to prolong the period of policy uncertainty over climate change policies and why is that, because policy can of course stimulate investment as well. If you are in the recession now, you pull back and say well, we will leave this issue to decide altogether. We will come back to it once we come out of this slowdown, then you prolong the period of policy uncertainty and you are very likely not going to get investment either in the new low carbon technologies or on the old high carbon technologies either.
MOTTRAM: The experts seem also to agree that carbon pricing is essential, regardless of whether countries opt for a carbon tax or a carbon trading scheme. The point though, Professor Steffan says, is that the world does has the tools to take effective action.
STEFFAN: Economic, technological, behavioural management to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required to decarbonise economies. A wide range of benefits will flow from a considered effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy, job growth, reductions in the health and economic cost of climate change and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services.
MOTTRAM: Whatever the nature of a global agreement, Doctor Jotzo says the participation of developing countries has to be at the core.
JOTZO: Rich countries will need to help developing countries to implement the kind of policies that they choose in this global effort and part of that support will need to take the form of financing and also improved access to cleaner technologies.
MOTTRAM: And Professor Steffan said that while a common approach was needed, it should be differentiated, referring to the debate about whether developed or developing countries are the biggest polluters.
STEFFAN: The climate is driven by the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere, not the flow that is going up this year. Now the stock that is up there has been building up since the Industrial Revolution. We know where it comes from and nearly 80 per cent of the stock there now is from the rich countries okay, that's absolutely clear. Now, the flow problem, yes developing countries, particularly the big economies in Asia have been emitting more and more, quite rapidly over the past decade or so. And they are approaching half, somewhere I think around 40 or 45 per cent of the global emissions as a flow into the atmosphere now. That still means rich countries are slightly ahead in the game, but it means it's evening out. So that's why people are saying we need a common approach, but it's differentiated.
MOTTRAM: But if the animosity in Australia about its domestic climate change mitigation plans is any indication, politics could well derail such subtleties, when leaders meet in Copenhagen in December to reach a new global climate change deal.