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Executives call for deep pollution reduction -

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Executives call for deep pollution reduction targets

The World Today - Monday, 8 December , 2008 12:10:00

Reporter: Brendan Trembath

ELEANOR HALL: The Australian Government is applying the finishing touches to what it says will be a
"robust" carbon pollution trading system.

But there is speculation that the Federal Government will not set its targets for emissions cuts as
high as it had earlier suggested.

And the heads of some of the world's best known companies are urging the Government not to drop the
ball on climate change.

They are calling for Australia to set an example to the rest of the world by making deep cuts to
our carbon emissions, as Brendan Trembath reports.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: To try to save the world from severe climate change, national governments are
locking in carbon pollution reduction targets.

The Australian Government is finalising what it hopes to achieve.

LINDSAY TANNER: We have had extensive consultations with leading business figures, major companies.
I have been actively involved in that myself as has had of course, Penny Wong and a number of other
ministers.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Australia's Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner.

The Federal Government aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without smothering the economy. But
the world financial crisis doesn't help.

LINDSAY TANNER: The global financial crisis and the recession that is now emerging in many parts of
the developed world are relatively short-term phenomena. Climate change is a critical long-term
challenge for the human race. We have got to deal with it and every year, every month that we put
off dealing with it, the problem becomes harder to resolve.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: As the Australian Government prepares to release its carbon pollution reduction
targets; there is pressure from the leaders of more than 140 global companies. They argue that
developed countries should lead by example and commit to deep and immediate cuts.

The Melbourne-based transport company Linfox has lent its name to this global corporate cause.

DAVID MCINNES: We are supporting the introduction and adoption of reduction targets, realistic
reduction targets on an international level.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: David McInnes is Linfox's group manager of environment and climate change.

DAVID MCINNES: Linfox internally has set itself a target of a 15 per cent reduction by the end of
2010. So we think as a positive agreement is looking at a period longer than that, that we would
like to see a higher target than 15 per cent which we would regard as fairly low.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Now once the Government makes its commitment to climate change targets, how soon
before we see any sort of benefit in the environment?

DAVID MCINNES: Well, if we look at the CO2 that is being emitted into the atmosphere today, we will
be at least 100 years and longer before the majority of that CO2 is sequested back into the
environment. So anything we do today, will take a long time, beyond your and mine lifetime,
although you seem very young Brendan.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: (Laughs) I wouldn't be so sure.

DAVID MCINNES: It will be well beyond our lifetime and that is why the change really needs to start
sooner rather than later because we are not talking here about human life spans, we are talking
about geological life spans which mean that the urgency for change and the urgency to make a
significant and real start is all the much greater because of it.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Business leaders have made their call for deep cuts in carbon pollution targets
to coincide with this week's United Nations climate change meeting in Poland.

There's also pressure on governments from non-government organisations such as Oxfam International.
It's best known for its work fighting poverty but also campaigns on climate change.

Andrew Hewitt is the executive director of Oxfam Australia.

ANDREW HEWITT: Well, Australia should be aiming for a target based on science and based on an
ambition to help lead the world and by science we mean we should be talking about a 40 per cent cut
in the medium term.

That is the sort of target that is scientifically sound and meets Australia's responsibility and
would enable Australia to play a real leadership role in the international negotiations.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: But won't that be quite a drag on the Australian economy - a cut of that
magnitude?

ANDREW HEWITT: Well I think every analysis both of a global situation and of the situation in
Australia is that if you take action early and take decisive action early, that the economy will be
in a stronger position than if we delay it for the never-never.

Now is the time for real action on climate change. Now is not the time for retreating to our own
backyard.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Andrew Hewitt from Oxfam Australia ending that report from Brendan Trembath.