Garnaut’s Draft for Australia – Hinting at Change – Needs to Add Agriculture

Posted on July 5, 2008

There is an idea floating around that we should walk around climate change, not change our course away from it. In the first case, steps will be taken to protect our way of life and beat climate change, in the second case, steps will be taken to change our way of life, and learn from climate change. The recent draft released by Australia’s Professor Garnaut and his Review team, is tending towards the second category, even though they have been given the unpopular job of coming up with economic strategies to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. However the draft needs to be updated to include agriculture – most importantly livestock industries – from the beginning.

I still have concerns though – that the kind of lifestyle changes emphasized by IPCC chief Dr. Pachauri will not be restated by Prof. Garnaut. They must be.  We must cease and desist from livestock production that devastates our globe. We must stop wasteful and thoughtless consumerism. We must become responsible for ourselves in practical ways such as riding bikes. We must take our emissions into our own hands – and Prof, Garnaut and other policy setters need to be brave in reminding us that without personal steps we will face a future not worth facing.

I understand that most people are concerned about the impant that climate change will have on the economy of their nation and the world. Personally I think the big picture makes climate change and the many associated threats seem like a warning about our way of life. We need to change our course – and this doesn’t mean macroeconomic adjustments designed to protect us – it means introspection from each of us.

The recently released draft of the Garnaut Climate Change Report, which is expected to carry considerable influence in the shaping of Australia’s battle with climate change, is an example of an attempt at macroeconomic policy that while realizing there will be hardship, also bites the bullet regarding long term change. And it is a challenge. The response must cut through ideological lines – which are entrenched in all politics. Without clarity and balance the bickering will deafen the world. Liberals will argue against policies that will impact on the interests of business and the wealthy sectors of society, and along with conservatives will argue against any change in general, while labor and social governments will be more concerned about impacts on the poor – while more proactive in setting policy in general. Generally speaking.

In creating policy designed to let us ‘walk around’ claimte change, it is expected that considerable government subsidy will be leant to like fossil fuels and livestock, both which contribute heavily to climate change. However I don’t think the draft takes this stance. I see it as setting a trend towards genuine change. There will be opposition though – and so I urge everyone concerned about it to take a look at the report and get behind it if they agree.

In general I think prof. Garnaut’s sensitivity to the impact of carbon trading on lower income earners (he notes that lowerincome earners live further from business and transport hubs and thus need more personal transport and more fuel) is great (see page 478).

I’m also impressed with the reference to possible rural hardhip in the absence of viable emission-reduction technology in certain industries. He mentions coal dependant communities – I would also mention livestock production areas that produce vast amounts of methane and rely on cleared / clearing land (page 477).

More reading on the Garnaut Draft

More reading on livestock and climate change