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The Commonwealth and the Climate

r194556_737907 Many of you may be unaware of of the fact that Australia is currently only a few days away from heading to the polls. Our fearless leader, John Howard – also known to some as George Bush’s whipping boy (and that’s the cleanest of the analogies) – has served for eleven years as head of Australia. During that time, he saw the Kyoto protocol arrive, and he blithely ignored it as if it was a recalcitrant reporter.

While in the lead-up to the election announcement this year, climate change was a driving force of conversation; it has since taken a back seat to national issues. However, within the last week, it has once again made its way back to the forefront, thanks to the IPCC report released on Saturday.

John Howard is as wishy-washy on climate change as George Bush is. His environmental policies have been lackluster and weak-willed, and it has made me ashamed to live in Australia.

Proof of Howard’s embarrassment came the other day while I was sitting down, watching An Inconvenient Truth with some mates. One, who doesn’t necessarily place a high priority on the environment or the policy that shapes it, commented to me:

“You know what was embarrassing? When I heard Gore say that ‘There are only two nations that have not signed the Kyoto Protocol: us (the U.S.) and Australia.’ That’s embarrassing!”

Now obviously votes aren’t necessarily based upon one idea, otherwise there would be chaos. So it has been hard to pin down just who I am to vote for. But thankfully the opposition leader, Kevin Rudd of the Labor Party, announced two things that definitely elevated him in my opinion: a) he would immediately ratify Kyoto upon being elected and b) he would personally represent Australia at the UN climate meeting in Bali next month.

These are obvious attention seeking gestures, and the Kyoto decision comes with a lot more baggage than we’ll go in to here. But, to me, it was comforting to know that Rudd even knew that there was a meeting occurring.

And it seems that the Australian opposition leader isn’t the only political figure in the world that knows there is something happening. The newly elected British PM, Gordon Brown, has provided environmental groups with a small measure of comfort.

“Virtually all electricity by 2020 must be from low carbon sources,” Brown told a meeting of environmental activists and businessmen in London. “We must start that transformation now. We are going to have to change quite fundamentally.”

Brown is in the unenviable position of needing to step out and away from the long shadow created by his predecessor, Tony Blair. If nothing else, Blair was known for a close relationship with Bush, and subsequently for a sheep-like mentality mentality to Bush’s requests.

What Brown is now in a position to do is set Britain aside from being another of America’s lackeys, something that is desperately needed considering America’s total lack of leadership in the area of climate change.

“He is finding his voice on this issue. This is all about transformation and building a green economy,” said Steve Howard from the Climate Group of Brown’s first speech on the climate. “If every G8 leader talked like this the world would be in a better place than we are now,” he added.

If this post has done nothing more than educate you a little on what is happening outside of the U.S. (or any other) border, than my job is done. I know that a lot of the U.S. is focused internally, and this is one of the issues facing the world at large. That one of the largest creators of pollution is worried solely about itself, and not the greater scheme.

The world could be a better place, as Steve Howard suggested, if only there was a concerted effort to look past our own small lives.




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