Australia in position to help reduce global GHG emission

Thursday, 22 May, 2008

Australia must work with rapidly developing nations, such as China, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Victoria University’s Professor Peter Sheehan.

“Australia is in a unique position to help those countries experiencing rapid industrial growth to improve energy efficiency by moving to more knowledge-based economies that provide greater incentives to reduce emissions,” Sheehan said.

“Australia has access to most of the world’s leading technologies and we do not pose a significant economic threat to China as we are not a globally important competitor in key industries. That means we can gain rather than lose by sharing our best expertise and knowledge, which may not be the case for large American, European or Japanese corporations.”

Sheehan believes it is reasonable to expect that Australia could have significant influence when it comes to improving China’s energy efficiency.

“The Chinese government wants to change course, and the central government is well aware of the environmental issues and of damaging effects widespread pollution is having. Already they are taking quite a lot of positive action but the country is so vast and the population so great that the challenges are difficult to underestimate,” Sheehan said.

He said control over local authorities is a major barrier to moving away from the present pattern of development focused on energy-intensive industries like motor vehicles, building and construction, towards a more knowledge-intensive economy.

Victoria University has been working closely with colleagues in China to see what measures can be put in place to accelerate the transition from an energy-intensive, industrial economy to one that makes better use of energy-efficient technology and knowledge-based skills. Specific projects are being developed that focus on reducing the production and consumption of inefficient air conditioners; exploring the potential of manufacturing advanced energy-efficient cars; and increasing the use of natural gas as a sustainable energy source.

“Australia can assist China in developing new economic incentives, government policies and even new export tariffs (like the 15% tariff on exports of aluminium and other energy products that is already in place), which could eventually bring about the change in mindset that is needed to deal effectively with climate change at the local level,” Sheehan said.

“It is now inevitable that we will suffer some negative consequences as a result of climate change but while there is a need to take immediate action what we mustn’t do is ask people to do unachievable things.

“Investing in alternative forms of energy is absolutely something we need to be doing while at the same time encouraging China to use less coal, even if that means reducing the volume of non-renewable sources of energy Australia exports. This is not the time for hypocrisy in our actions.”


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