Activists arrested as climate criminals go free

September 3, 1997

CANBERRA — Twenty members of the Greenpeace Climate Rescue Team were arrested and charged with trespass on August 20 after disrupting a conference here. They were protesting against the federal government's refusal to join world efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The climate criminals went free, however. Federal ministers Tim Fischer and Robert Hill were addressing the "Countdown to Kyoto" conference, organised by a right-wing group from the United States to derail international climate change negotiations.

"If Australia refuses to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, it will be not only a disaster for the environment, but also a major blow to the economy. We will be left with a dinosaur economy, producing coal and oil that the rest of the world no longer wants", said climate campaigner Keith Tarlo.

"Signing an agreement to cut greenhouse pollution at Kyoto would be a win for the environment and a win for the economy."

On August 19, Greenpeace protested in the Fijian capital, Suva, against Australia's climate policy by hanging a banner reading "Downer the Drowner, Oz climate policy sinks Pacific".

Greenpeace's Tamsin Vuetilovoni said Australia's position on climate change negotiations threatens the signing of a major agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Alexander Downer recently said the only target that Australia could agree to at Kyoto would be one that allowed reasonable growth in our greenhouse emissions", Vuetilovoni said. "This is totally unacceptable. By not taking decisive action now, an opportunity to find a global solution will be lost."

Greenpeace reports that 2000 international scientists have determined that climate change is real. It is due to increased carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

The European Union wants all OECD countries to agree to a 15% reduction on 1990 emission levels by 2010 in an agreement to be signed in Kyoto in December. In negotiations preceding the Kyoto meeting, the Australian government announced it would not commit to a reduction of CO2 because it would cost the economy billions of dollars.

The government is using an economic model prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE). ABARE estimates that cuts in CO2 emissions would cost the Australian economy $150 billion by the year 2020.

However, according to Greenpeace, 131 Australian economists say that policies are available to reduce Australia's

greenhouse gas emissions without harming the economy. The ombudsman is currently investigating the fact that funding for ABARE's study came from oil, coal and gas companies.

Vuetilovoni remarked that Downer came to Fiji to talk about fostering good relations, yet his government is not willing to avert a threat to its South Pacific neighbours' lives and environment.

"International scientists predict many low lying areas will be under water if sea levels continue to rise", he said. These include the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

"If economists believe Australia can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions without harming the economy, then why is Australia not willing to do so?"

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