The emissions reduction target set by the government of PM Kevin Rudd of 5-15% by 2020, and its decisions to accept a target of 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) and to give free permits to the worst industrial polluters, are appalling and disgraceful.
It must be roundly condemned by the 80% of Australians who realise that immediate and emergency action is essential if we are to save our environment for future generations.
Global warming poses the gravest threat to human existence since remote prehistory. Unless science, industry and political forces work together successfully to combat climate change within the next few years, warming processes already occurring are likely to become impossible to stop.
If climate change is not stopped, most plant and animal species will become extinct and advanced civilisation will perish.
If it were to be adopted globally, Australia's 5-15% reductions and 450ppm targets would ensure that the planet passed tipping points for large sea-level rises, temperatures rises of more than 2°C and ocean acidification that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park.
It would also be an economic and humanitarian disaster for hundreds of millions of people without proper food, water or shelter.
If high per-capita emission nations like Australia commit to very modest reduction targets by 2020, the developing world will reasonably argue that their emissions can continue to increase. Australia's position is likely to undermine all the small gains that have been made internationally.
At the recent climate talks in Poznan, 49 of the least developed countries advocated a target of 350ppm, knowing that their countries will be devastated by any higher target.
A target of 450ppm is not even a firm 2°C target, as statistically there is a 78% chance of exceeding 2°C. The Socialist Alliance says that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by no later than 2015, then fall by at least 5% annually, to achieve a target of 300-325ppm CO2 and have any chance of stopping the most severe impact of climate change.
The laws of science aren't interested in political compromises and steering "a balanced course". Climate targets must be set according to the scientific imperatives, and putting them through political filters can only imperil the planet.
Socialist Alliance also opposes the government's reliance on carbon trading as a key tool for reducing carbon emissions.
Market mechanisms — which subject emission reduction measures to the short-term pressures of the marketplace — are unsuited in principle to the complex, unquantifiable requirements of preserving the environment.
In the absence of leadership by government, the task of forcing the changes needed to preserve nature and humanity falls to citizens organising, protesting and mobilising independently of the conventional political process.
Lobbying politicians with the facts of climate change is necessary, and may at times score successes. But reliable impacts can only be made by demonstrating that large numbers of people are alarmed by climate change, and that they expect governments to act decisively.
Socialist Alliance will continue to campaign for the government to set stronger and realistic targets.