Around two years ago, I posted my dilettante-ish opinion that nuclear energy would need to be increasingly important if the world is to reconcile the goals of reducing carbon emissions and continuing international economic development.
That view is now firmly in the mainstream, as evidenced by the discussions at the APEC meeting in Sydney last week. Although it's a rare day when a liberal internationalist finds himself more or less in agreement with George W Bush and John Howard, this one groaned at statements by various New Zealand politicans that they would seek to 'water down' references to nuclear energy in a conference statement on climate change.
These comments were seemingly intended for a domestic audience, one that might by now be dwindling. New Zealand's 'anti-nuclear' stance was a flagship, nation-unifying policy in the 80s. But as I said in the previous post, surely that was "more a stroppy assertion of foreign policy independence than a reasoned rejection of nuclear technology".
The climate change declaration negotiated at the APEC meeting ended up being pretty motherhood-and-apple pie, with only 'aspirational' targets set But with the range of political, social and economic situations faced by the APEC countries, it's better than nothing for a week's work. While it's easy to be critical of non-binding targets, it has to be acknowledged that New Zealand and Canada, which ratified the Kyoto Protocol, have done worse at reaching their emissions target than Australia, which didn't.
However, some credit should be given to the New Zealand contingent at APEC for practicing what they preach. New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark was one of the five leaders who arrived on normal commercial flights The others were the prime ministers of Papua New Guinea and Singapore, the chief executive of Hong Kong, and, yes, Peru's austerity-promoting Alan Garcia.
On the other hand, the US contingent brought three special 747s, while they, China and Russia, demanded 'sovereign immunity' for their aircraft, exempting them from being inspected by Australian customs officials. So much for international co-operation.
Categories: APEC, nuclear power, climate change