Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts logo
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts home page

Archived media releases and speeches

Disclaimer

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.

Transcript
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Transcript
Lateline
ABC TV
Tuesday, 3 September 2002



E&OE

Subjects: WSSD, Kyoto


Tony Jones:

Joining me from the Earth Summit in Johannesburg is the Environment Minister David Kemp. David Kemp, one of your main objections to the Kyoto Protocol has been that developing countries' competitors have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. That argument now seems to be evaporating under your feet?

Dr Kemp:

Well, I wouldn't put it that way at all Tony. In fact, the Russian ratification has always been expected by Australia and of course we've also expected the Canadians to ratify, although they are still finding it more difficult. So our position still stands very firm. We want to give a very clear message to the world that Kyoto is not going to solve the greenhouse gas problem. We've got to have a pathway for involvement of developing countries and Australia's clear decision not to ratify under these present circumstances is, I think, a very clear message to the international community that we've got to, even now, start moving on beyond Kyoto.

Tony Jones:

David Kemp, we've got a glitch in our satellite at the moment, but we can still hear what you're saying so we're going to keep going. Now, as we’ve said, the big polluters seem to be having a change of heart. China has ratified, as we said. Russia has agreed to do so. It's expected India will announce tomorrow. Now don't you think your arguments, the arguments you've been making about developing countries, now look a little faded at least?

Dr Kemp:

Well, not at all, because countries like India and China are not accepting legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol ...

Tony Jones:

Oh no, we've lost that satellite altogether now. We're going to move on to our next story and try to come back to that if we can ... Well, returning again to our main story on the sudden reversal of fortunes for the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions. Rejoining us now in Johannesburg is the Environment Minister, David Kemp. David Kemp, I was asking you a moment ago, before we were cut off, the big polluters seem to be having a change of heart on Kyoto. China has ratified, Russia says it will ratify. It appears India is going to ratify tomorrow. Your argument all along has been that the developing countries haven't ratified, therefore Australia should not because it would put us at a disadvantage. Where does that leave your argument?

Dr Kemp:

Well, no Tony that's not right. Our argument all along has been that the developing countries are not accepting the kind of legal commitments under the Kyoto Protocol that developed countries like Australia would have to accept if we ratified and this is still the case. There's nothing surprising about what's happened. We expected Russia to ratify. China and India are in a totally different position. Australia is still in an area of the world where the vast majority of countries in our region have not ratified or are not accepting legal obligations under the Protocol. And that's still the basis of Australia's very strong claim to the international community that until we find a pathway for the involvement of the developing countries in a way where they do accept some obligations, then Australia does not see it is in its national interest to ratify. And we believe that internationally Australia has got to give a very strong message to the international community that we have to have an alternative global approach beyond Kyoto, which does involve the developing countries and the United States.

Tony Jones:

Are you saying that you would be comfortable to reach a position where only Australia and the United States oppose ratifying the Kyoto Protocol?

Dr Kemp:

Well, let me make an important point here of distinction. The critical thing is that we cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. As Tony Blair said on arriving in Johannesburg, Kyoto is going to make barely 1 per cent difference to global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, Tony Blair also said that we've got to look beyond Kyoto to having a global framework. Now, that is very much the Australian position and we wanted to give a very strong signal to the international community that we need to move beyond Kyoto. Australia, I believe, is taking a very responsible position. We've said we'll reach our Kyoto target. We're working harder than very many countries, perhaps harder than most countries, to reach the target we negotiated at Kyoto. I find amongst the delegates here at the Summit that there's a great appreciation of the world-leading programs that Australia has got in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So we consider we’re being a very responsible international citizen and in many ways, giving leadership by pointing to the fact that Kyoto is not going to be the answer and we’ve got to have a much better global framework.

Tony Jones:

Aren't we just going to look like the country that is out of step with the world because we're trying to do America's bidding?

Dr Kemp:

Well, that's a ridiculous proposition, Tony. Australia takes its own decisions in accordance with what we believe to be Australia's national interests. If we believe that ratifying the Protocol will damage Australian business, will give a false message to the world that we're prepared to impose legal obligations on our industries, which the industries in our main competitor countries don't have, then we would be giving a very false and foolish message. Australia, I believe, is taking a responsible position and I believe it is recognised internationally, although other countries would like us to ratify, that Australia is doing the right thing in contributing to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions. But, we want to get across the other message too - we need a better global framework.

Tony Jones:

Well, I was talking about perceptions more than anything else. Let's look, if we can, at the practical outcomes if we don't ratify. When Russia ratifies, the Kyoto Protocol will become law. The system of global carbon trading will then come into force and Australia will be locked out of that system if it hasn't ratified. Doesn't that have implications for our trade?

Dr Kemp:

Well, there are several points to make there. One is that there isn't a system of global carbon trading in practice at the moment. In fact, very few countries in the world have even got domestic systems. So we've got some way to go before there is such a global system in place. But secondly, Australia has to weigh up the relative costs and benefits of ratification against non-ratification. We would still be able to access the Kyoto credits for our own domestic purposes if we wish to introduce such a system of carbon trading at home. Now there's been no decision to do that. We're engaged in a consultation at the moment with Australian business in looking at the most cost-effective ways to move ahead. But inevitably decisions of this kind are a weighing up of the various costs and benefits and we've taken what we believe and believe Australian business thinks and therefore Australian employees and those who are interested in Australian jobs would think is the right decision at this time.

Tony Jones:

This is a hypothetical case, but let me put it to you anyway because it's the sort of thing that Australian businesses are worried about, some of them anyway. What if China, being inside that system, decides that it wants to get carbon credits for buying Australian gas? Now it has a big gas deal with Australia. It cannot get carbon credits for that. That may affect Chinese decisions to do future deals, with Australia selling more gas to them?

Dr Kemp:

Well, Tony, the fact that there has been this $25 billion deal with China to give them liquid natural gas indicates the argument you're putting is not right. Because China hasn't just suddenly made up its mind on Kyoto. China has been contemplating its position in the Kyoto Protocol for quite some time. Given that, it has entered into this massive deal with Australia to use Australian cleaner energy. And of course that is a great contribution to the global situation because Australian LNG is going to reduce China's carbon dioxide emissions by some 7 million tonnes per annum compared to what they would have been if China had relied on coal for its power generation. So, this is a very positive decision and the fact that China's just recently entered into this agreement I think shows that the argument that we're going to lose contracts is false. In fact, we've gained the biggest contract we've ever had.

Tony Jones:

Let me put this to you finally, we're running out of time unfortunately, but would you agree at least, that it does now look like the Kyoto Protocol is going to become law, possibly even within the course of this year and that Australia and possibly the United States will be the only two countries not in it?

Dr Kemp:

Well, as I said before, Canada is still finding the decision a difficult one because of the United States' decision not to go into the Protocol. The vast bulk of Canada's international transactions, including in relation to energy, are with the United States. So that has put Canada in a difficult position and I don't want to pre-empt what Canada's decision might be, but the crucial thing is that we reduce globally greenhouse gas emissions. Kyoto is going to make very little difference to that and what we need to do is to continue to work with all countries to put a global framework in place beyond Kyoto. That's certainly what Australia will be doing. We'll be taking some very strong action internationally to see if we can't build this pathway for the involvement of developing countries in a system where there are some legal commitments and where we're going to get a real reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Kyoto doesn't cover 75 per cent of world emissions. In the next decade, the emissions from developing countries will exceed those from developed countries. So it's absolutely critical that we move on from where we are now. And the symbolism of signing is certainly of interest to some people, but Australia is much more interested in the substance of taking effective action to reduce the human impact of global warming.

Tony Jones:

David Kemp, thank you for joining us.

Ends

Commonwealth of Australia