Late on Friday afternoon, our Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, put out a media release stating that Australia would not be announcing it’s greenhouse reduction targets before the international meeting in Poznan. It seems that Cabinet are split on what the target should be. A decision still hasn’t been made but it will be any day now.

If you were ever thinking of calling Mr Rudd or Penny Wong to demand at least 40% cuts in emissions by 2020, now would be a good time. You can reach Kevin at Parliament on (02) 6277 7700, or you should be able to get hold of Penny (or at least one of her staff) on (02) 6277 7920.

Garnaut recommended a range of 5 to 25%, depending on what happens in the international negotiations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have called for 25-40% reductions for developed countries. The big polluters have been lobbying for a low target of 0-10%. We think that Australia should adopt a target of at least 40% reductions by 2020 – based on 1990 levels.

The decision to delay the announcement of the target is an indication that they probably want to avoid embarrassment on the international stage. If the rumours coming out of Canberra are anything to go by, Kevin Rudd is about to take a step back into Howard era obstructionism and Australia will be laughed out of the international climate negotiations.

If Australia adopts a 2020 target below 25% cuts, it will send a signal to the world that Australia isn’t serious about tackling climate change and is likely to make a good international agreement so much more difficult to reach.

The 2020 target raises a fundamental question about the Government’s response to climate change. Is climate action a ‘core’, or a ‘non-core’ election promise? ie, are they going to do anything serious or not?  A couple of Greenpeace activists tried to get Kevin to re-commit to his election promise outside the lodge this morning – but to no avail.

A year is a long time in politics and we are a long way from the heady days when Rudd came to office with a mandate for climate action and received a standing ovation on the world stage when he ratified the Kyoto Protocol. A year on, and not much has changed except for a few words. Australia’s emissions continue to increase. We are still building new coal power stations, renewable energy companies are still packing up and heading overseas, and the business community are still screaming blue murder at the prospect of having to cut their emissions.

Australia’s response to climate change, and the targets that are set over the next 12 months, will be the defining test of Kevin Rudd’s leadership. Everything else will be washed away in the rising tide of history.