Australia debates selling uranium to India to combat climate changeJuly 30th, 2008 - 7:31 pm ICT by IANS
By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, July 30 (IANS) Nuclear power has to be an option if Australia has to meet its targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, believe many in Australia’s opposition Liberal Party, with at least one frontbencher adding Australia “can and must export uranium to India” for the same purpose of combating climate change. “India’s energy security and needs are the major issues in the relationship between two countries. This issue can strategically make Australia a very important partner to India. It is the thing India really wants from us,” said Liberal Party foreign affairs spokesperson Andrew Robb.
Another Liberal Party frontbencher, who declined to be identified, has told The Australian newspaper that the best thing Australia could do to reduce global emissions was to sell uranium to India so the nation could use nuclear power rather than coal.
In August 2007, the former government led by Liberal Pary’s John Howard had agreed to sell uranium to India subject to the finalisation of the US-India civil nuclear deal and the conclusion of a bilateral Australia-India nuclear safeguards agreement, but the Labour government overturned the decision after coming to power last November.
“Well, our consideration of the US-India nuclear civil arrangement certainly won’t lead to a change of policy, so far as Australia’s exports of uranium are concerned,” said Foreign Minister Stephen Smith in a joint interview with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice aboard a flight from Singapore to Perth July 24.
The Kevin Rudd-led Labour government has also ruled out a nuclear option for Australia itself to counter climate change.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett told Sky News that the Labour Party is committed to nuclear safety. “Look, the position of the government is clear on wanting to make sure that exports of uranium happen through a proper regime and proper safeguards and with countries involved in those multilateral agreements that bind them to making sure that their use of the material is safe,” he said.
But opposition Liberal Party’s deputy leader Julie Bishop Tuesday reopened the nuclear debate by criticising the Labour government’s Ross Garnaut report on climate change for dismissing the nuclear option.
“The issue of nuclear power has to be debated rationally if Australia is serious about making deep cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, nuclear power is the only proven technology capable of delivering low emission reliable baseload power 24 hours per day,” Bishop wrote on her blog in the Fairfax media website.
“In pursuing alternative forms of energy, there has already been considerable investment in wind generation and a lesser investment in solar generation. However, these technologies do not achieve significant reductions because of the intermittent nature of the supply,” wrote Bishop.
The Liberal Party Wednesday endorsed its climate policy, maintaining the pre-election stance to back carbon trading from 2012 regardless of action from the major international polluters.
“If out of the Copenhagen meeting late next year we see limited, if any, action from the major emitters, particularly the United States, China, India and the Russian federation states, then Australia should commence an emissions trading scheme with a very, very low carbon price and a very, very low trajectory,” Nelson said in Canberra after the party meeting Wednesday.
While nuclear power was not discussed, opposition trade spokesperson Ian Macfarlane told Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “Australia can’t wait until 2020 to start lowering its emissions on base load electricity. So nuclear must be considered if we are to be fair dinkum about lowering greenhouse gases in Australia.”
Echoing the same viewpoint, Robb told The Australian: “We’ve always thought it should at least be on the table for discussion. If you’re worried about greenhouse gas emissions it’s got to be on the table for discussion.”
The government would decide on the course of carbon reduction targets when it releases its white paper on emissions trading later this year. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd doesn’t want to waste any more time when it comes to climate change. He told reporters Wednesday: “The call of the international community and the call of the people of Australia is to get on with it.”
Rudd has also rejected opposition suggestions that the collapse of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks overnight spells doom for a global agreement to counter climate change.
Describing the failure of the WTO talks as a “body blow” to the global economy, Rudd told reporters: “On the question of global climate change negotiations, they have a way to run, through until Copenhagen at the end of next year. They’ll be tough, they’ll be hard, they’ll be difficult. We understand that, we accept that but we intend to be activist in that process.”
According to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the collapse of WTO talks could cost the Australian economy $7 billion a year.