Rudd Leaves Denmark with a Rotten Deal
To secure a Copenhagen Accord Kevin Rudd sold out Australia's long-term negotiating interests and accepted the full cost of any future climate change agreement.
During the Copenhagen conference the Prime Minister claimed ``if every country pulls its weight we can secure the agreement which we need in Australia's national interest''.
But that isn't what the accord delivers. Instead, countries such as Australia offered all their bargaining chips to get China and India to commit to an agreement that obliges them to offer nothing in return.
And now that the accord has failed to attract the consensus required for it to be formally adopted as a decision of the conference, the Prime Minister has committed us to a worthless agreement while declaring that Australia is prepared to put all its bargaining chips on the table.
Meanwhile, developing countries have kept all their chips to play with at the next scheduled negotiating round. You need only to look at the record.
Before departing for Copenhagen, India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh stated in a parliamentary speech that he would support only a flexible agreement. India was adamantly opposed to two points: ``legally binding emission reduction cut[s]'' for developing countries and any requirement they ``announce when their emissions will peak''.
Sure enough, in the accord India avoided requirements for developing countries to nominate when their emissions would peak. They'll need only to declare their emission reduction policies.
Throughout negotiations China opposed being held to the same standard as developed countries for international measuring, reporting and verification of their domestically funded emissions reduction programs. Under the accord the Chinese are required only to have international assessment for programs funded by other governments or international finance pools.
African countries and small island states wanted financing for a mitigation and adaptation fund to address a changing climate and they secured $US30 billion ($33bn) from developed countries for the next three years with a goal for $100bn a year by 2020.
Developing countries should have secured concessions from the agreement because they have a right to develop their economies with less onerous climate mitigation obligations than rich countries. But in the face of being offered nothing in return, Australia, the US and Europe shouldn't have bet the farm.
Since the conference, Rudd has declared he will announce Australia's emissions reduction target in February, but according to an early leaked draft accord he appears to have offered Australia's full emissions reduction target of up to 15 per cent, regardless of what other countries do, and 25 per cent if other countries take comparable action.
These offers are between three and five times higher than the targets flagged in Rudd's twice-failed emissions trading scheme legislation. Had Rudd passed the ETS before Copenhagen, he would have misled the public in supporting his scheme without it knowing the true cost.
By comparison, the US succeeded in securing a concession to avoid a universal binding emissions reduction target.
Instead, the US will be required only to nominate its target. And according to the same early leaked draft accord the US will have its emissions baseline year set at 2005. Canada's will be 2006. In doing so, both countries will not be expected to make the additional deep emissions cuts that they would have had they adopted the Kyoto 1990 baseline year.
The leaked draft gives Australia's baseline year as 2000, but this is no concession because emissions in that year were little different from 1990 levels.
The accord also leaves Australia exposed to the prospect of ``alternative sources of finance'' being introduced to support developing countries, which may include a new international travel and shipping tax.
Such a tax would hit hardest economies, such as Australia's, that are geographically isolated and trade-dependent.
The result would undermine our export competitiveness.
Faced with such a burdensome deal, contrary to Australia's national interest, Rudd should have walked away from the Copenhagen Accord.
But, politically, he couldn't. To bolster his domestic policy case for an ETS, he had insisted for months that an agreement at Copenhagen would be achieved.
Immediately after the accord was struck, leaders began to spin their failure, with US President Barack Obama, declaring it a ``meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough''.
Rudd was more sober, arguing ``much more work remains to be done'' and saying the agreement was better than a ``catastrophic collapse''.
But for Australia it was a worse outcome because we're now committed to the full cost of the Copenhagen Accord without having extracted any meaningful concessions to blunt the pain it will inflict.