Australia has always prided itself on being able to punch above its weigh class. From a small population base (currently 21 million) we continue to find ourselves out in front. Pioneers of blackbox flight recorders, bionic ears, photovoltaic technology, solar hot water, etc, we are also continually standing on the winners podium at sporting events (fourth highest medal tally in the past two Olympics). Even Australian trained actors like Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson end up holding gold on Oscars night. Now we win again. Once more we are declared the World's Worst CO2 emitters (per capita)
Researchers from the Centre for Global Development, and their new Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) initiative, looked at more than 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies in every country on Earth. They concluded that Australia, per head of population, spews more carbon dioxide than even the United States who came second and China who rocked in with fifth place. Coincidence that the two worst emitters on the list are also the two western countries who've still failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol?
And it's not that we can't do better. For example, there is the Queensland town that hopes to be 100% solar thermal powered in a few years. Wind farms are sprouting up And then there is an Australian company that has plans for a $360m AUD solar farm and manufacturing plant in NSW. The aim is to build what will be a 30 megawatts solar farm providing enough green electricity for more than 30,000 homes, while also developing a factory to produce "a revolutionary new type of thin-film solar panel." One they say will be a 10th of the cost of conventional photovoltaic technology. In current federal government has promised to kick in $20m — if re-elected.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) have an online Scorecard ranking where each of the significant parties is measured on their environmental pre-election promises. The Greens, for example, would establish a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) of 25% by 2020, whereas the Liberal/National conservative coalition have their clean energy target of about 15% by 2020, but this also includes 'clean coal' and nuclear. Falling part way between is the Labour party (sort of akin to the US democrats), who are pitching for 20% of total energy supply coming from renewables by 2020.
As the head of the UN environment program, Achim Steiner, said regarding the findings of the recently released IPCC report "We are in trouble and need to act and secondly, we have both the means and the possibility to act to avoid the worst. But it means we act now and we need to act collectively."
This coming election weekend, let's hope Australia makes choices that help us all be collective winners.