Australia abandons clean-air target

Australia is cutting down forests at a rate second only to Brazil and, in spite of being one of the biggest producers of greenhouse gases, has abandoned targets to reduce gases by 2000.

In 1992, Australia's emission of greenhouse gases was almost twice as high as the United States and Canada, two "high-emission" economies. The ratio is expected to get worse.

While economic and population growth has played a part, the main cause is the relentless clearing of land for farming, forestry and coastal development. The Australian Conservation Foundation, the leading environmental lobby group, says that native vegetation is being cleared at a rate of 660,000 hectares (1.58 million acres), possibly 1 million hectares, a year, a rate that is second only to Brazil.

"This has left us with the worst aspects of developed countries and the worst characteristics of the developing world," Michael Krockenberger, a foundation forestry official, said.

"The clearing has an impact not only on animals and plants, but also on the climate.

"South Australia is the only state with tough laws against clearing. Elsewhere, state governments turn a blind eye, for fear of alienating powerful farming and forestry lobbies."

Canberra has backed off imposing a "carbon tax" owing to pressure from industry. The Labor government of Paul Keating announced last week it would drop plans to impose a tax of A$1.25 (60p) a ton on emitted carbon dioxide and use part of the revenue to promote energy effiency. The scheme was designed to boost Australia's image at an international conference on climate in Berlin next month, but its abandonment means that Australia will not meet the greenhouse gas targets set at the Rio summit

Tricia Caswell, executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the organisation's members would take their campaign for a carbon tax to international forums.

"We can't believe that in the middle of what is the first decent debate about reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government is taking it off the agenda."

Earlier, the foundation released a report, prepared for the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, which said Australia had the worst record for the emission of greenhouse gases, measured by gross domestic product, among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the leading industrialised nations.

Carbon dioxide emissions grew at three times the OECD average over 20 years to 1992, while energy consumption rose by twice the average.

Vegetation acts as a "sink", absorbing carbon dioxide. Cut down and burnt, it releases carbon dioxide, and left to rot, it releases methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas. Methane emissions from sheep and cattle on vast rangelands have compounded the problem.

In an attempt to repair the damage caused by a wave of clearing during the pioneering era, the federal government has designated the Nineties the "Decade of Landcare" and has called for the planting of one billion trees. But Mr Krockenberger warned that for every tree planted, two will be cut down.

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

Science Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

English Teacher, full time supply role, Isle of Sheppey

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job: Our client school is lo...

ICT Teacher, full time supply role, Isle of Sheppey

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job: Our client school is lo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week