EMISSION-INTENSIVE industries such as aluminium and cement might be excluded from a global Kyoto II agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, with separate sectoral agreements negotiated to slash their emissions, environmental consultant Nick Rowley forecasts.
Mr Rowley, formerly climate change adviser to then British prime minister Tony Blair, told the Victoria Summit that developing countries such as India were unlikely to sign up for emission cuts in a post-Kyoto agreement, negotiations for which will start in Bali next month.
The summit, convened by the Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry, explored the challenges and opportunities for businesses in environmental issues from global warming to recycling electronic waste and developing tourism around Victoria's natural assets.
A VECCI task group proposed that a carbon exposure profile of Victorian industry be drawn up immediately, and carbon adjustment action plans prepared for high-risk industries and sectors before national emissions trading begins in 2011.
VECCI chief executive Wayne Kayler-Thomson said Victoria should make itself a global leader in the rapidly growing area of recycling electronic and electrical waste. The potential market in recycling mobile phones alone was $500 million a year, he said.
Mr Rowley, who now runs Sydney environmental consulting firm Kinesis, told business leaders there was now a scientific consensus that global warming should be limited to no more than two degrees Centigrade. This meant the world had only 10 to 15 years to start reversing the rise in global emissions.
But he warned that while China might agree to cap its emissions at some time, India — which emits just 1 tonne of carbon dioxide per head annually compared with almost 20 tonnes in Australia and the US — was focused on reducing poverty and saw action to cut emissions as the West's responsibility.
"It would be unwise for Australia to make China and India signing up to cutting emissions as the criterion of whether Australia should sign up to a treaty from 2012," Mr Rowley said later.
"There are other criteria that ought to be important to us. One is to get specific targets for specific sectors such as aluminium and cement, so they are not part of the wider climate treaty, but dealt with in separate global agreements to get significant increases in emissions efficiency.
"Another is a global agreement to give priority to developing carbon capture and storage.
"The world relies on fossil fuels for 80 per cent of its energy. Reducing these emissions is an absolute imperative, and it won't be done through emissions trading, because as yet, it's not economic."
Mr Rowley shrugged off the rapid growth in emissions from aviation, saying the demand for air travel was not price-sensitive, and would not be reduced by carbon charges.
He said reforms to increase airport efficiency could cut aviation emissions by 20 per cent.