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Fed: Departing Liddell urges Aust to be bold on climate change

By Sandra O'Malley, Diplomatic Correspondent
Wed Aug 19 01:29:49 EST 2009

CANBERRA, Aug 18 AAP - British High Commissioner Helen Lidell has a small request of Australia before she leaves the post later this year - be bold on climate change.

Seven years ago, Britain was one of the first nations to embrace an emissions trading system; London is now the major market for carbon trading.

Ms Liddell said that since the introduction, emissions had fallen by 21 per cent below 1990 levels and 800,000 people worked in low-carbon industries.

Although she did not want to tell Australia what to do about reducing carbon emissions, Ms Liddell acknowledged it would take leadership and fortitude to do what was best for the planet.

"Some of what I heard in the UK 10 years ago is what I hear in Australia today from the special-interest groups," Ms Liddell said.

People had suggested it was too hard to take action because of the global financial crisis.

"I say this is the time to seize the hour," Ms Liddell said.

Just days after the government and the coalition failed to find common ground on an emissions trading scheme, Ms Liddell urged Australia to be bold in its targets to cut emissions.

"We would like to see Australia with an emissions trading scheme. We would like to see bold targets from Australia but Australia has to come to that decision," she said.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Ms Liddell gave a frank and at times humorous account of her last four years in Australia, which began in the aftermath of the July 2005 terrorist bombings in London.

Ms Liddell said she was surprised by the extent to which the bombings had affected her work in Australia.

"The relationship between Australia and the UK is one of the closest in the world and nowhere is it closer than in the fight against terrorism."

She warned against thinking an attack could never happen here - the globalised nature of the terrorist "franchise" meant any nation could fall victim.

"Terror could come to a shopping centre or a hotel near you or I at any time.

"In a distant and beautiful country like this, it's easy to think that it won't (happen) here.

"A lot of people think of the terrorists as old men hiding in caves in countries far away but just as our economies are globalised, so to is terrorism."

Like any international organisation, terrorists used the internet and other communications tools to try to recruit disenfranchised individuals and groups.

Britain was working hard to stop radicalisation, she said.

"We must be ever vigilant about the false prophets who peddle a doctrine of hate - the marginalised and disadvantaged are their targets."

Baroness Valerie Amos, a former leader of the House of Lords, will take over from Ms Liddell later this year.

Ms Liddell has enjoyed much about her time in Australia - but cricket is not necessarily included.

Admitting she would rather watch paint dry, Ms Liddell remembered how former prime minister John Howard had spent an hour trying to explain the rules of cricket to her before giving it up as a lost cause.

In terms of fanaticism about the game, she suggested Australia would be better served by her successor, whom she described as a "cricket tragic".