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Climate Change in the Political Agenda

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With an Australian federal election due this year, climate change has become an inevitable hot topic. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recognised the significance in a recent appeal to environmentalists to make their environments issues ‘sexy’ ((Schwarzenegger: Make environment sexy - NEWS.com.au)). What Arnold is trying to do is bring environmentalism in to the mainstream and to no longer appear to be solely the domain of ‘tree huggers’.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Prime Minister John Howard and opposition leader Kevin Rudd are debating to what extent Australia is responsible to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Both have acknowledged that a reduction of emissions is needed. Australia and New Zealand count for approximately 1.1 percent of the worlds contribution to global warming ((as cited in An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, 2006, page 251)). John Howard has expressed that any targets need to be considered carefully, emphasising that Australia’s global warming role doesn’t compare to that of the United States and China ((PM Howard lays into Rudd’s green credibility - NEWS.com.au)).

In Australia, one of the primary ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is through the use of renewable energy. A report from green groups suggests that a move to renewable sources of power, such as wind and solar could generate new jobs ((Green energy could fuel job boom: report - ABC)). This is the sort of financial incentive that is needed to move towards a real reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Australia is also behind in the federal government’s projections to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report by the Climate Institute ((Garrett, Turnbull at odds over climate change report - ABC)), suggesting Australia is not on track to meet its Kyoto targets. Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull disagreed with the findings of the report, pointing out that it omits offsets from land use.

Whether the issue of tackling global warming is significant to Australia or not, the Queensland public are concerned about climate change ((Qld public frets over climate change - ABC)). Whether the Australian economy is perceived to be able to bear the weight of strong action will be a key factor in what position Australia will take in the years ahead.