Thursday, March 29, 2007

Howard To Form Global Coalition To Save Ancient The Forests

Except For The Ones In Tasmania

Australian prime minister, John Howard, has announced that his government intends to spend more than $200 million planting trees and trying to wind back deforestation in developing countries as a way of combating global warming.

Howard wants to form a "global coalition" to tackle deforestation in South East Asia, in particular the massive illegal logging now underway in Indonesia.

The government claims it has the support of countries like the US and the UK for their forests plan, but neither country has officially signed up, or committed to help funding the fight against deforestation.

This is the latest attempt by Howard to position himself well out from the federal election as a full-blown, forest-focused conservationist. If the look of distaste on his face when he announced the plans is any indication, Howard is still having a hard time adjusting.

"...20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from clearing the world's forest and that's second only to emissions from burning fossil fuels to produce electricity and it's more than all the world's emissions from transport," John Howard said.

The plan will be John Howard's counter to the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to slow down global warming.

The more new trees planted, goes Howard's theory, and the less old trees are cut down, the less carbon and/or greenhouse gases go into the atmosphere.

Howard believes that if you can cut the rate of deforestation in half, and plant enough trees, you can notch up reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on the order of 10 times greater than would come from signing onto the Kyoto Protocol and meeting their projected targets for cuts.

The forests plan, announced on Thursday, is yet another example of how John Howard wants other countries to pick up the carbon slack so Australia doesn't have to shut any coal-fired power stations or dive too deeply into the renewable energies revolution sweeping through China and EU countries.

He claims Kyoto, and emissions targets proposed by the Labor opposition - cuts of 30% by 2020 - will cost Australia thousands of jobs and destroy the economy. His plan is better, he claims, because it will lead to great emissions cuts than those offered up by Kyoto without the loss of any jobs or the vast profits (and taxes) spawned by Australia's coal-rich resources boom.

But the vague proof Howard offers to back up his claims that emissions cuts of 30% by 2020 will cause an economic catastrophe in Australia is as questionable as the doom-mongery spouted by the most evangelical of global warming true believers.

By shouting in Parliament that Australia's economy and mining industry workforce is at dire risk from hard emissions cuts, Howard indulges in exactly the same kind of fear mongery that he accuses climate change alarmists of spouting.

"History is littered with examples of nations having overreacted to presumed threats to their great long-term disadvantage," Howard said, but did not cite one such example.

Primarily because the most obvious example of a nation overreacting to "presumed threats" is the United States under his good mate President Bush. The presumed threat being Saddam Hussein's non-existent WMDs.

Greens senators and Labor both picked up on the fact that Howard allows vast deforestation via clear-felling of ancient forests in Tasmania at the same time he is going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to wind it back across South East Asia :

Greens Senator Christine Milne says it is hypocrisy to focus on South-East Asia when clearfell logging and regeneration burns continue in Tasmania.

"It's absolutely a last minute coming to recognise what we've all been pointing out for years, a loss of forests, deforestation, a major driver of climate change - start in Tasmania, Prime Minister," she said.

While few would argue against planting more trees and preserving ancient forests, John Howard is clearly still having a hard time adjusting to hearing such talk coming out of his own mouth, after a solid decade of mocking and attacking conservationists and green-orientated politicians.

But Australians are green-minded now in the vast majority, and global warming and climate change rank high as decisive election issues.

Howard must now be hoping he can make it to the next election without having to come clean on the fact that carbon trading, particularly centred around coal mining, coal exports, and coal-fired power stations, is already becoming the unofficial world currency. Australians are going to have to pay, and pay big, for getting wealthy off coal.

The World Bank is a key backer of Howard's forests plans, and their involvement adds another layer of credibility to the carbon credits as "world currency' theory.

Australia will eventually have to pay the rest of the world, probably via a carbon trading system run through the World Bank, to mine, export and burn coal at the rate we do today, and that price will see electricity costs skyrocket.

Howard has no one to blame but himself for the fact that he now has to play catch up and quickly re-brand himself as somewhat of a radical new conservationist, despite how distasteful he finds it all to be.

His own government's scientists and climate change specialists were trying to warn Howard & Friends for eight years that severe climate change was a reality, and global warming was likely to be most responsible for the coming changes. There were hundreds of reports that were locked away from the public, and the greater scientific community.

The Howard government successfully kept the views and warnings of their own scientists out of the public debate (for the most part) and locked up the government's own scientific agencies from having access to the media, and the public at large, to warn them of the horrors that they could all but verifiably prove were becoming an alarming, and dangerous, reality.

Howard left his conversion to climate change "realist" very late in the game, no doubt hoping that new, undeniable proof would emerge that humans are not responsible for global warming, but the proof never came.

Or, at least, the humans-are-responsible theory behind global warming became common currency and widely acknowledged as The Truth. Howard bet big that global warming would be exposed as a myth, a conspiracy theory, and he lost that bet.

Australia will soon have to pay for those savage losses, long after John Howard has retired to the United States and a cosy boardroom chair in Washington DC.

Telling Indonesia to do more to stop deforestation, while allowing it to continue in Tasmania is as ridiculous and hypocritical as playing down Australia's solar-powered future while demanding Australians accept that dozens of nuclear power plants will be needed to keep the country energy sustainable.

From 'The Australian' :

....the $200 million Australian initiative will operate outside the Kyoto climate change protocol and will be funded by other developed nations to help developing nations preserve forests.

Germany, Britain and the US are expected soon to contribute to the fund, which will have Indonesia as its prime target. The UN has identified Indonesia as having the world's highest rate of forest clearing.

The new world fund - with a similar structure to the six-party Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate created early last year - will give John Howard momentum on the climate change issue as Labor paints him as negative and reluctant on global warming.

The forest fund, to be managed by the World Bank, is designed to help developing countries start sustainable forest industries, plant new forests, stop illegal destruction of rainforests, provide monitoring of forest production, education in forest management and help communities dependent on illegal rainforest timber find alternative jobs.

Deforestation accounts for 20per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and it is estimated that a tonne of CO2 can be sequestered - or taken out of the atmosphere - through tropical reforestation for just $US2, a fraction of the cost of other technologies.

The World Bank has estimated the mismanagement of forests costs the global economy $US10billion a year and says 85 per cent of the world's forests are not managed in a sustainable way.

From the ABC :

Mr Howard has rejected British economist Sir Nicholas Stern's proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent in 13 years, saying it would damage Australia's economy and cost thousands of coal industry jobs.

He says combating deforestation will make a real difference, but will not harm the economy.

"What this initiative will do in a shorter period time is make a greater contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions than in fact the Kyoto Protocol," he said.

It should be noted that while John Howard and government ministers talk up their forests plan as having "the support" of England, the US and other key countries, they are yet to get anything close to a firm commitment of additional funding, and signatures to this new protocol are a long way away, probably on the other side of the coming federal election.

Howard Talks "Global Warming Nonsense" - 75% Rate GB As A Personal Concern
April, 2004 : In The Tasmanian Forest With The Men Who Cut Down Ancient Trees

Green Groups Welcome Plans To Reduce Asian Logging, But Claim It Is Hypocrisy To Not Do The Same In Australia - "Our Prime Minister Is A Forest Fool"

Indonesia Struggles To Fight Organised Crime Involved Illegal Logging - Estimates Of $4 Billion In Losses To Indonesia Every Year