Friday, 5 September 2008

Garnaut - Targets and Trajectories

The report may be found here.

There are two references to nuclear power, copied below.

What the rest of the world notices most about Australian emissions is that ours are the highest per capita in the OECD; that over the past several decades they have been growing faster than those in other OECD countries; and that while in 1971 the emissions intensity of Australian primary energy supply was similar to the OECD as a whole, in recent years it has been more than one-third higher (Draft Report, Chapter 8, Figure 8.6). There are good reasons why Australia became relatively more dependent on a high-emissions source of energy, coal, while the remainder of the OECD was reducing the proportionate role of coal and increasing the contributions of low-emissions energy, including nuclear. But whatever the reasons, they are not easily reconciled with the idea that Australia is leading the world in emissions reduction.

It is often said in Australia that developing countries are strongly resistant to reductions in emissions, and that it is unrealistic to expect them to participate in global constraints on emissions. This is too simple. China’s selective withdrawal of export rebates within its value added tax, the export taxes on a range of energy-intensive products, its discouragement of expansion of energy-intensive industries and its specific regulatory constraints on investment in steel, aluminium and cement production add up to more substantial constraints on the most emissions-intensive industries than would occur in Australia in the early years of an emissions trading system. China’s active encouragement of low-emission sources of power (hydroelectric, wind, nuclear, biomass, biofuels) goes beyond current Australian efforts. These measures stand alongside a domestic policy commitment to reduce the energy intensity of economic activity by four percentage points per annum until 2020. Data released in August 2008 show the energy intensity of Chinese GDP falling by 3.7 per cent in 2007—the first sign of good intentions on energy intensity being reflected in policy outcomes.

In the two country examples above Australia's rejection of nuclear power compared to the OECD is linked to our current emissions reduction challenges. China, on the other hand, through its deployment of nuclear power - in concert with the parallel deployment of other technologies and strategies - has already achieved tangible evidence of their 'good intentions'.

There is a special section devoted to the future use of coal [heavily dependent on near zero leakage CCS technology]. The report remains technology-neutral beyond these statements, referring only to 'low-emissions technologies'.

Section 6 of the report addresses the fact that despite Australia's contribution of only 1.5% of total global emissions - 'Australia matters'. Garnaut concludes:

Australia matters. What we do matters. When we do it matters. It would be really silly to take action with costs to ourselves meant to assist the emergence of a good international agreement, but to do it too late to have a chance of avoiding high risks of dangerous climate change. What we do now, in time to influence the global mitigation regime from the end of the Kyoto period, is of high importance. What we do later runs the risk of being inconsequential in avoiding dangerous climate change.

There are already reports in the media calling the proposed trajectories inadequate. Calls for greater reductions within the context of a sustainable Australian economy will continue to increase the attractiveness of nuclear power.

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