July 16, 2008

Cost of leadership

There is a lot of complaining over the Federal Government’s various schemes to reduce our carbon emission. Some of these are valid concerns, yet others are nothing more than short-sighted yapping of the unwashed. Here is a typical example of such a thing:

“if Australia cuts or carbon emissions by 50% it will not make any difference either as we contribute 1% and China and India are growing at a rate of 10% per year. They produce more Carbon in a day then we produce in a year. So why are we going to destroy our economy exactly again?”

This typified the majority opinion in my encounters with the Australian public online and off. It shows a marked lack of foresight and more than a little scare mongering. Firstly, our economy is hardly going to be destroyed because of emission trading. The European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) was implemented in 1st of January 2005 with the then 15 countries of EU as participants. Today 23 EU [1] members are participating in EU ETS. Do you really think the number of participants of EU-ETS would increase if emission trading destroyed economies?

So why should we implement emission trading when China, India, and the rest of South-East Asia (SE Asia) account for so much of the world’s carbon emission? The answer is two fold. First is the fact we are a First World country, an Enlightened Society, a World Leader. If we don’t do what we can do cut back on carbon emission, then how can we expect developing countries like China and India to do so? Secondly, countries like China and India have such large manufacturing bases because of us. First World citizens demand and consume products which are produced in factories based on South-East Asia. It is our demands which creates industries in in SE Asia, our demand that China and India account for such large percentage of global carbon emissions. United States of America emits more carbon dioxide per capita than any other nation, followed by Saudi Arabia and you guessed it, Australia [2]. In other words, Australians are the world 3rd largest carbon dioxide emitters. So when you combined add two and two together, it becomes absurd to suggest we simultaneously demand cheap products from countries like China and India and that they cut back on carbon emissions, while we do nothing ourselves.

The Kyoto protocol is often branded as a toothless tiger because of lack of political will. Yet when political will is exercised, the masses complain about the cost. Wake up people of Australia - only First World countries like ours can afford to exercise political will on such a scale and on this subject. As consumers we are the ultimate cause of carbon emissions, and as a world leader we need to be the ones who take the first step. Emission trading will cost us - see it as the cost of leadership, the cost of doing something proactive to ensure our future on this planet. If we balk at the cost, then we are in no position to ask China or India to cut back on their carbon emissions and absorb the resulting losses.