Kyoto Protocol: Letter to the Editor

This is the text of a letter to the editor of The Australian by Michael Chaney (BCA President, 2005–2007), published on 27 October 2007.

Your article (“Rejection of Kyoto a mistake, says BCA”, 26 October) conveys an incorrect interpretation of my views about the wisdom of Australia ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.  

In answering Jennifer Hewett’s question about whether it would have been better, with hindsight, for Australia to have ratified Kyoto, I replied that, politically, it may well have been; but I went on to explain why I never supported ratification – including because the US and major developing nations (for example, China) were not signatories. I said that I could understand the Howard Government’s refusal to ratify as a matter of principle, that we should welcome any government standing on its principles and that, in my view, signing Kyoto now would be merely a token gesture.  

There is a world of difference between conceding a point of political strategy regarding Kyoto (which I did) and accepting its intrinsic value as a way of addressing climate change (which I do not). My comments did not, in any sense, represent “a major about-turn” by the BCA. We have always held the view (and still do) that many countries ratified Kyoto out of electoral expediency, with no realistic prospects of meeting their targets. The fact that a majority will fail to do so bears that out. It would be regrettable if ratifying Kyoto remained a point of focus for the climate change debate during the federal election campaign, when its relevance is so diminished.