Action item no.1: Save the planet

3 December 2007

Just today, Kevin Rudd was officially sworn in as our new Prime Minister and yet his actions in the next fortnight will have lasting ramifications for the entire planet. And I thought my first day on the job was daunting.

The UN Climate Change talks have begun in Bali, setting the agenda for the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol, and presenting a historic opportunity for Australia get serious about climate change. After years of standing apart from the global community on the issue, finally ratifying Kyoto puts us back inside the circle of trust. And what we do this fortnight will help determine how the next two years of international climate change negotiations play out – negotiations that are critical to the survival of our planet.

The pressure is on. But luckily Rudd doesn’t have to go it alone. He has the support of his new Treasurer Wayne Swan, Finance Minister Simon Crean, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Environment Minister and long-standing environment activist Peter Garrett. He also has the support of the world’s top scientists, the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who have warned that the state of the planet is dire and we must act now to avoid dangerous global warning. Most importantly he has a mandate from the Australian people, who have shown how much they care about the issue by voting him in the first place.

Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol was a good first step. But to really do our bit to avoid dangerous climate change, Australia must stop emissions from increasing in the next term of Government and ensure they rapidly decline thereafter. The only way to do this is to begin the switch out of coal. This means halting the planned growth of the coal industry, and then starting to replace existing coal-fire power stations with renewable energy.

Climate change was the linchpin of Rudd’s landslide election victory, but what he does from today and over the next three years will be his political epitaph.