Australia should think regionally on climate change


Australia should look to bilateral and regional partnerships for progress on climate change given the political risks and costs of pursuing unilateral action at home, according to Flinders University’s Professor Malcolm Cook.

The Dean of the School of International Studies told a conference in Adelaide on March 22 that four political leaders have paid a high price for trying to deal with the problematic issue of climate change.

“Australia’s political leaders are finding it extremely difficult to find a politically sustainable approach to addressing climate change within Australia,” Professor Cook says.

“John Howard suffered from being perceived as not doing enough as did his successor as leader of the Liberal party, Brendan Nelson. Prime Minister Gillard, like Brendan Nelson’s successor Malcolm Turnbull, is suffering from trying to do too much too quickly. Kevin Rudd suffered for flip-flopping,” he says.

“The devilish politics of climate change in Australia likely mean that the country’s progress towards a politically accepted approach to climate change will continue to be unsteady and uncertain at the cost of political leadership careers.

“The connection between global and domestic approaches and momentum will likely also stay weak. Clearly Australians want their government to act on climate change, they are just not sure how and no leader so far has figured it out either.

“This has opened up scope for middle power Australia to seek bilateral and regional approaches to climate change abatement and adjustment focused on development aid and technological development.

“These have proven less politically damaging and more sustainable than efforts to contribute to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process and to introducing a domestic price on carbon.”

The Developing Sustainable Societies: Challenges and Perspectives conference includes speakers from the influential Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, University of Adelaide and University of South Australia.

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