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

Doorstop 12:45pm
Wednesday 13, November 2002

Subject: National Environment Consultative Committee


Thank you very much for coming to this doorstop. I just wanted to let you know that the government this morning has been meeting with the National Environment Consultative Forum.

The National Environment Consultative Forum is a group of environment and conservation organisations, local government organisations who are working to improve environmental policy, in some cases on a matter of cooperation with the government in its programs. Most of them are independent completely in their views. And the government wanted to discuss with the Consultative Forum the government's way ahead on greenhouse.

The discussion that we had this morning with the Consultative Forum was a very constructive discussion. A very positive discussion. We are keen to involve the whole Australian community in planning Australia's national way ahead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is a very important issue for Australia. It's going to affect every section of the community. And the National Consultative Forum on the Environment, we believe, has got a valuable role to play in helping the government develop the national strategy which we'll be working to next year.

We've also got, I think, some very useful discussion out of this morning on a range of issues. The Consultative Forum made a point to the government about the importance of renewable energy. Renewable energy is a very important element in the government's total policy mix.

We currently have the 2% additional renewable energy target to be reached by 2010 and obviously the members of the Consultative Forum are interested that we should increase the waiting on renewable energy.

This is a matter that the government will be looking at in terms of the review of the mandatory renewable energy target that will be launched at the start of next year. And these groups will have an important input into that.

I want to make it absolutely clear that the government is not prepared to sacrifice economic growth and jobs in Australia in order to artificially expand the renewable energy component of our total energy. But we will be working with the review to ensure that we make the best balanced decisions that we can on Australia's future energy mix.

The group raised with me quite a number of issues, and you might want to ask me some questions about that. I would just like to make the point that of course most of the members of the group do not agree with the government in terms of its policy of not ratifying Kyoto, and I don't want to misrepresent their positions on that. The government has stated its position very clearly on that matter.

We don't believe that the ratification of the Kyoto Treaty is in Australia's interests because it would lead to the shipping of Australian industries and jobs overseas. But we are committed to reach the target that we negotiated at Kyoto and the government is putting in place the basis for a long-term national strategy to reduce out greenhouse gas emissions.


On the renewable energy targets system, did the groups convey to you research that has found that several old hydro users are getting hold of the certificates? The energy certificates which are supposedly therefore renewable, creating new developments in renewable energy. Lots of these old producers are managing to obtain these certificates without actually producing any new renewable energy, you know, performance, I suppose? It's not working, the research is saying.


The groups in the forum didn't raise that matter specifically with me in the course of the discussion on renewable energy. There clearly is a debate amongst those companies that are producing new forms of renewable energy. That they want an adequate place in the sun.

We believe that the system that is in place, under the mandatory renewable energy target, does provide a great incentive for companies to develop new approaches to renewable energy. We've seen a great development in wind farms in recent times. We're seeing a lot of new initiatives coming forward.

All these issues will be canvassed in the course of the review of the mandatory renewable energy target commencing in January next year.


Was there any arguments put to you that a different than you've already heard as to why Australia should ratify Kyoto?


No, I think the arguments have been very well canvassed. There wasn't anything that we heard this morning that really changed anything in our thinking. We've got a very clear view on the basis of the analysis that we've made that it is not in Australia's national interest to ratify the Kyoto Treaty.

We believe that that will damage Australian industry and Australian jobs so long as there is no pathway for the involvement of developing countries.

There was nothing that we heard this morning that really changed the basis of that decision.


How can it damage Australian industry and jobs when under the current target, which you said we'll meet anyway, we're allowed to increase our greenhouse emissions? How can that damage current…


Well, Australia is in a position in the world where we're surrounded by countries who are, in some cases, important competitor countries for us for investment. None of whom will be accepting commitments under Kyoto. So our position is very different to the European countries, all of whom will be accepting commitments.

We run the risk of giving a message to those contemplating long term investment in Australia, whether they're in Australia at the moment or overseas, that we're prepared to impose on them obligations that they will not face if they invest in our major competitor countries.

And it's because we don't want to give that message that we've taken this decision that it is not in our national interest to ratify Kyoto at the present time.


You obviously don't agree with the assessment then that Australia, along with the United States, are just spoilers in this whole Kyoto process and moving forward on greenhouse, considering that Kyoto's likely to come into effect next year anyway?


Well of course Australia is one of the leaders in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The Australian Greenhouse office has been a very important international initiative. The initiatives the Australian government has in place will already be reducing greenhouse gases by some 60 million tonnes by 2010. And there is a lot of international respect, I believe, for what Australia is doing for the actual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia's interest is in getting in place a global framework that works. Kyoto is not the answer. It's going to make a 1% difference to global greenhouse gas emissions. It doesn't include 75% of global emissions.

What we need is a global framework that includes all major emitters. And until there is a pathway for the involvement of developing countries, we don't see it as being in our interests to ratify that Treaty.

We made the point at COP8, this is the recent conference of the parties in New Delhi, that we believe there should be a process getting underway to involve all countries in a discussion about a global framework that is going to involve all major emitters.

Some progress was made on that in New Delhi, but there's a lot further to go.


But given the rest of the developed world, with the exception of the United States, has taken Kyoto and is moving forward with that, how hopeful are you that they'll be wanting to engage with you in this development of a new global framework when they consider Kyoto the first step towards that anyway?


Oh, very hopeful. I mean I think one of the most hopeful features of New Delhi was the recognition for the first time by the European Union that a discussion about the global framework post-Kyoto should now be getting underway. And they were supported in that by a number of the developing countries in our own region.

The Pacific Island countries are strongly committed to having that new global framework being discussed at the present time because they see what the impact of global warming is going to be on them.

Major emitters in the developing world, like China, I believe are thinking and acting domestically to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What we now need to do is to move towards a proper international process where we can get a good discussion beginning about the nature of the global agenda that will succeed Kyoto. Thank you very much.


Commonwealth of Australia