Garnaut Says Australia Prefers `Comfort of Ignorance' on China and Climate

Australia “polity” prefers the “comfort of ignorance” on China taking a lead role on battling climate change, according to the government’s global warming adviser Ross Garnaut.

Garnaut, whose recommendations formed the government’s shelved plan to battle climate change, said China is exercising leadership on the issue. His comments follow a Prime Minister Kevin Rudd speech on April 23 urging China to take a greater “leadership role” as its economic power grows.

“Calling for Chinese leadership on climate change requires us at least to inform ourselves on what we might do to follow,” Garnaut said in a speech in Melbourne today. “So far, the Australian polity has preferred the comfort of ignorance.”

Rudd on April 27 shelved the government’s carbon trading plan to assess actions taken by other countries at the end of 2012 and after the upper house of parliament blocked the laws twice. That saw voter support fall for Rudd, who previously described climate change as the greatest “moral challenge.”

“How many times have you heard the ignorant statement that Australia is justified in delaying action on climate change because China and the rest of the world are doing nothing?” Garnaut said, according to e-mailed speech notes. “If we were informed and honest we will acknowledge China is contributing to the emergence of a strong global mitigation effort.”

China is Australia’s largest trading partner, with the two- way relationship worth A$83 billion ($74 billion). Iron ore makes up half, or A$22.1 billion, of Australian exports to China. The country is also Australia’s largest source of overseas students and 15th largest investor.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gemma Daley in Canberra at

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