Australia should work with China on climate change

keltonThe Global Financial Crisis has created an even greater imperative for Australia and China to drive the Copenhagen meeting to an agreed solution on climate change, according to Flinders University academic, Dr Maryanne Kelton.

Dr Kelton told a conference in Tianjin, China, today that the financial crisis has increased the potential for instability in Asia with climate change consequences compounding the existing hardship of poverty and unemployment.

“Remarkably upbeat as some analysts are, the effects of the Global Financial Crisis will continue to reverberate throughout the region. Though its effects have not been as acute as the crisis of 1997-98 where the Suharto government fell in Indonesia, the crisis will nevertheless produce a deterioration in the quality of life for millions of people in the region,” Dr Kelton said.

“The shorter term problem of unmet expectations can be a powerful force in creating social and political unrest or in exacerbating existing fractures in fragile societies. Over the longer term, this disaffection, compounded by the cessation of educational opportunities, can create forces antithetical to stability in the region,” she said.

Dr Kelton, from Flinders School of International Studies, told the conference – co-hosted by Flinders University and Nankai University – that “the intersection of the financial crisis with the need to limit anthropogenic carbon emissions complicates government capacity to act”.

“As has been plainly evident in the debate within Australia, the Labor government’s intent to construct an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has been circumscribed by concerns that such a scheme will adversely affect industrial output and employment. Though the desirability of an ETS as the first best option for addressing emissions is moot, the need to create a national and eventually international reduction scheme is more widely supported,” Dr Kelton said.

“That the East Asian region will be vulnerable to rising sea levels, storm surges and flooding, coupled with increased pressures on productive food landholdings increases the pressures on both Australia and China to pragmatically reduce emissions and partner with regional states to limit environmental change. Multilaterally it becomes incumbent on Australia and China to locate workable solutions and with this in mind to drive the Copenhagen meeting in December to agreed solutions,” she said.

Dr Kelton was amongst a number of Flinders academics who, with counterparts from Nankai University, addressed the Global Financial Crisis conference today. The conference coincided with the graduation ceremony for the Master of Arts (International Relations in Economy and Trade) that Flinders teaches at Nankai University in Tianjin.

Flinders Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Barber, said the education sector had an important role to play in the recovery from the current financial crisis by expanding the region’s teaching and research capacity.

“This conference builds on a long term relationship that Flinders has with Nankai, one of China’s leading universities, and takes that relationship to a new level with a joint engagement on research,” Professor Barber said.

“Australia’s international education has been driven primarily by bringing students to Australia and secondly, by running courses offshore. We need to expand our intellectual engagement and joint research activities with our Chinese counterparts, such as this conference that Flinders is co-hosting with Nankai University, are a critical part of an expanded relationship,” he said.

Dr Song Xu, of Flinders School of International Studies, reviewed China’s responses to a series of financial crises which have occurred at approximately ten year intervals over the past 30 years.

“The Chinese economy has gone through three major crises but each time China has made its own individual response based on the country’s financial and economic capacity. And in each response, China has added to its image of being a new player on the international political scene,” Dr Xu said.

“China institutes reform, watches the response, reflects on the results, and then takes the next step. It is a very conscious and gradual reform process which the Chinese calls ‘the Middle Way’,” she said.

With growth of nearly 9 per cent per annum despite the Global Financial Crisis, Dr Xu said the crisis still posed challenges for China with questions remaining over the pace of future reform of the financial and banking sector.

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