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Leadership? What leadership?

Kevin Rudd made tackling climate change the centerpiece of his winning election campaign in 2007. Once in government, he announced plans to introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme in Australia in 2011 with the aim of cutting emissions by at least 5 per cent by 2020 (from 2000 levels). But these were stymied when the country’s Senate rejected them in August 2009. The opposition Liberals later ditched their leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who supported the scheme, in favour of Tony Abbott, a diehard opponent of it.

In my new book, Aftershock, I said:

The prime minister’s intent is sincere, though; analysts speculate that he may call an election if he can’t get the plans approved.

It now looks like that assessment was incorrect.

On 27 April, Rudd backtracked, saying that he would do nothing until 2012 at the earliest. He blamed the opposition’s “backflip” and said Australia should wait to see how global efforts to curb climate change pan out.

Yet only last November, in a speech to the Lowy Institute, he dismissed as parochial and “absolute political cowardice” the notion that Australia should not act until others do. Citing government figures, he warned that a delay would end up costing Australia 15% more to adapt to climate change later.

A Lowy poll this week found that 72% thought Australia should act to reduce carbon emissions before a global deal is reached.

Even so, with an election looming, Rudd has opted for cowardice.

Posted 01 May 2010 in Australia, Blog, Climate change

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