The signs were ominous. Firstly, the news that Penny Wong was not going to take Australia's emissions targets to COP 14 in Poznan last week, but would announce them on December 15, after the UN meeting was over.
Secondly, on Friday, the very day that COP 14 was wrapping up in Poland, Kevin Rudd announced, as part of a $4.7 billion "nation building package", an investment of $1.2 billion in the Australian Rail Track Corporation to "more than double the amount of coal being transported to export markets".
Rudd deserves credit for taking the flak himself at the NPC, for beneath all the rhetoric about the dire perils of climate change, his government does not intend, over the next twelve years, to do much about it.
In announcing his emission reduction targets for 2020 - 5 per cent, with the option of an extra ten per cent with international cooperation - Rudd has trivialised the scientific imperatives of urgent action, compromising... nay, corrupting the effort by kowtowing to industrial and political interest groups, and allowing himself the absurd distraction of playing wedge politics.
Rudd's plan is dangerously inadequate in its targets for 2020 (and indeed for 2050) and is misguided in its efforts to compensate an incomplete cross-section of the Australian public. It is even more misguided in its efforts to protect industries, especially coal-mining and (de)forestry.
While the decision to fast-track the allocation of projects under the Renewable Energy Fund is (on the surface at least) creditable, we should beware of the spin. Rudd and Wong proudly tell us that, if we allow for population growth between 1990 and 2020, a 5% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels would represent a reduction per capita of 24 per cent.
Sorry guys, that's not an argument. The atmosphere is a finite space and does not expand in relation to population growth. Indeed, over-population is, in itself, a major factor in the growth of carbon emissions. No one else fudges their figures on a per capita basis, it had in fact already been agreed not to. Don't fall for the rhetoric.
The other nonsense being spread in support of the claim that the targets are too severe, is that a global economic crisis is the not the time to be introducing new economic hurdles.
Get real. Economic crises are temporary. Global warming is permanent.