Department of the Environment

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Publications archive


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Independent review of the Australian Greenhouse Office

Hon. Warwick L. Smith LLB, June 2002

3. Climate change and greenhouse - international obligations and national policy objectives

3.1 National policy dimensions

3.1.1 2001 Election commitments

A Better Environment, the Howard Government's election policy on the environment, outlines commitments on climate change for the current term of government (commitments relating to international activity are shown in Section 3.2). The AGO has a primary or significant implementation responsibility for many, but not all of these actions. Measures in the statement included:

Climate change science

Funding for greenhouse research:

National activity

Relevant commitments were also made in the Coalition's election policy statement Backing Australia's Resources and Energy, including those outlined below.

Maintaining Australian industry competitiveness and Greenhouse policy

3.1.2 National Greenhouse Strategy

A National Greenhouse Strategy (NGS) was released in late 1998. The NGS was developed by the Commonwealth and all State and Territory Governments, and provides a strategic framework for an effective greenhouse response and for meeting Australia's international climate change commitments.

The NGS arose out of a review of the 1992 National Greenhouse Response Strategy (NGRS), which was agreed to by Australian Governments in 1992. Work on its development commenced in 1996.

The goals of the NGS are:

The NGS identifies eight major activity areas (called modules) and outlines a range of specific measures under each. For each of these, it identifies existing measures, additional measures and a timeframe. Responsibilities for implementation are identified, including the role of governments, agencies (eg CSIRO) and Commonwealth/State Ministerial Councils. The six modules are: profiling Australia's greenhouse gas emissions; understanding and communicating climate change and its impacts; partnerships for greenhouse action: governments, industry and the community; efficient and sustainable energy use and supply; efficient transport and sustainable urban planning; greenhouse sinks and sustainable land management; greenhouse best practice: industrial processes and waste management; and adaptation to climate change.

A report on progress in implementing the NGS was produced in 2000, with a comprehensive review due in 2002. The progress report concluded that there had been substantial progress made in meeting the majority of measures in the NGS. However, it noted that less progress had been made on the third goal of laying the foundations for climate change (see above), indicating a greater earlier emphasis on improving knowledge and understanding and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

3.1.3 Measures for a better environment

In May 1999, a number of greenhouse initiatives were also introduced as part of the Measures for a Better Environment package (MBE), introduced as part of the government's A New Tax System package. The MBE established the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program, with $400 million funding, and also provided support for actions to encourage the use of alternative fuels, household energy reduction initiatives and measures to encourage renewable energy generation.

3.1.4 Safeguarding the future statement

In November 1997 the Prime Minister released the statement Safeguarding the Future: Australia's Response to Climate Change. The statement announced a package of measures to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, supported by funding of $180 million over five years. The measures are aiming to reduce Australia's net emissions growth from 28 to 18 per cent (excluding land use change) or 39 million tonnes by 2010. The statement also articulated Australia's preferred position international climate change negotiations. Major initiatives outlined in the package included:

3.2 International obligations and ongoing developments

In December 1992, Australia ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). The Convention entered into force in March 1994. Major commitments for Australia as a Party to the FCCC include:

The first Conference of the Parties to the FCCC determined to commence negotiations on a protocol to the Convention. The resulting text, the Kyoto Protocol, was agreed in 1997 and Australia signed the Protocol in April 1998.

The Kyoto Protocol strengthens developed country commitments under the FCCC and includes measures to further the implementation of the Convention. It sets a collective and individual country greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for developed countries. Australia's target is a no more than eight percent increase above 1990 levels by 2008-12.

The Prime Minister's statement Safeguarding the Future (see Section 3.1.4) also outlined the Government's position on the international response to climate change. This included advocacy of differentiated greenhouse gas reduction targets for developed countries, according to national circumstances, as adopted in the Kyoto Protocol. The Government also indicated that it would not agree to legally binding targets until their nature and content and implications for Australia are clear. These assessments are continuing and consequently Australia is yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Current priorities for international cooperation on climate change articulated in the A Better Environment election policy included:

On 5 June 2002 the Prime Minister indicated during question time in Parliament that ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is not seen as being in Australia's interests at present and Australia will not be ratifying the Protocol.

The AGO plays a key role in developing, negotiating and implementing Australia's international climate change commitments. It has the lead in developing Commonwealth policy positions under the Kyoto Protocol on monitoring, reporting and reviewing of countries' greenhouse gas emissions, and land use change and forestry activities. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also has a significant international role on climate change (in particular through Australia's Ambassador for the Environment) and takes the lead role on matters such as treaty negotiations.