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Govt's climate change response 'lacks balance -

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Govt's climate change response 'lacks balance'

Reporter: Margot O'Neill

TONY JONES: While the Prime Minister has called for a nuclear power debate, some of Australia's
largest companies believe the Federal Government's response to climate change lacks balance and
could prove unworkable. The companies, which include bankers, insurers, recyclers and natural gas
producers, claim investment in Australia's future energy infrastructure is at risk because the
government is delaying action to protect the interests of some mining companies. Meanwhile, a new
documentary by former US Vice-President Al Gore has upset the American fossil fuel industry. Margot
O'Neill reports.

FILM CLIP: From Paramount classic pictures, the film that's shocked the world.

MARGOT O'NEILL: It's Hollywood meets PowerPoint presentation - and it stars global warming activist
and former US vice president Al Gore.

AL GORE: Think of the impact of a couple of hundred thousand refugees and then imagine 100 million.

MARGOT O'NEILL: American climate change sceptics who are partly funded by big fossil fuel companies
have hit back with a TV campaign hailing the virtues of carbon dioxide.

ADVERTISEMENT: Carbon dioxide - they call it pollution, we call it life.

MARGOT O'NEILL: In Australia, the argument is not over whether climate change is a problem, but
over how much time we have to act. According to a powerful new coalition of Australian bankers,
insurers and energy companies, called the Business Roundtable on Climate Change, Australia has a
'go slow' policy as a result of influence wielded by some mining companies.

TONY WOOD, ORIGIN ENERGY: I think the resources sector certainly has made a very strong argument to
government about their concerns, in relation, not so much to whether we respond to climate change,
because I think most industry now has accepted that, but how quickly we should do so. I think that
is reflected by government policy. Other industries need to make it clear that they're concerned,
otherwise you will get, to some extent, an imbalance in this process, and that's what we've seen to
date.

MARGOT O'NEILL: The Roundtable includes the companies Westpac, IAG - which is Australia's largest
insurer, and the natural gas company, Origin Energy. They want the Government to adopt a national
carbon emissions trading scheme, which would put a price on carbon pollution - making greenhouse
emissions a business cost and pushing the market to cleaner alternatives.

TONY COLEMAN, IAG: It is entirely possible with existing technologies to materially reduce our
carbon emissions in Australia by about 60% by 2050, and to do that with minimal impact on economic
growth. It can be done with technologies that do not include nuclear power.

MARGOT O'NEILL: It's an action plan that doesn't wait for longer-term possibilities like nuclear
power or carbon geosequestration technology - which promises to clean up coal-fired power stations
by burying carbon emissions. While they both could be part of longer term solutions, the Business
Roundtable says the Government should move now to introduce a carbon price or risk the marketplace
ignoring green technologies.

TONY WOOD: If you're looking at some of those lower-emission technologies such as clean coal or
gas, you'd want to know that no-one else would be given protection from a carbon price, so it's the
very fact that we don't have clarity about a carbon price is the first question - we need to
understand that no-one will be given a carbon holiday,

MARGOT O'NEILL: John Daley represents the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, whose members
include many fossil fuel companies. He says the industry is happy to support a carbon price, but
only after technologies like geosequestration becomes viable - and that could take up to 20 years.
In other words, we should all wait.

JOHN DALY, AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRY GREENHOUSE NETWORK: We have time to do this. That's why the real
effort should be focusing on those technologies so that we can develop those alternatives for that
future out in that time frame. Many will be ready for deployment on a fairly extensive scale within
10, 15, 20 years - and that is okay.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Mark O'Neill from the Australian Coal Association is also unimpressed with the
Business Roundtable's plan.

MARK O'NEILL, AUSTRALIAN COAL ASSOCIATION: At the moment, you've got players in there like banks
and insurance companies that can sit on the sidelines and say we need to do more about climate
change but I don't see them putting their hands in their pockets. Perhaps, foe example, the banks
could siphon off some of their bank fees into public-good activities like funding research and
development and demonstration of new technologies - that would be a real contribution.

MARGOT O'NEILL: But Tony Coleman from IAG says there can be no more delays.

TONY COLEMAN: We need to do more and we need to do it quite quickly. The facts are that climate
change and global warming are accelerating at the moment. All of the scientific data is confirming
that. Major icons like the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, which will be pretty much destroyed if
temperatures rise by 2 degrees Centigrade. And that of course means a lot of export dollars won't
be earned anymore.

MARGOT O'NEILL: The Federal Government could yet find itself caught in the crossfire between some
of Australia's largest business titans. Margot O'Neill, Lateline.