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

Embassy of Australia
Washington, DC
27 February 2002

Climate Action Partnership Announced Between Australia and the United States

Kemp: Thank you for coming along today. I'm very pleased to be able to announce today that the United States and Australia have established a Climate Action Partnership to take practical action to improve the situation of climate change in the world. I've had very good discussions over the last few days with members of the US Administration. The United States has welcomed the Australian proposal for a climate action partnership so that we can take practical joint action in relation to climate change. There are a number of areas where we believe that practical action between the United States and Australia, cooperative action, can be very beneficial. We see that in areas such as: climate change science -- the needs of industry in our two countries to be able to work within regimes which are as harmonious as possible; Australia has taken quite a role in the development of carbon accounting systems; in the development of tradeable credit systems for renewable energy; and we see that there are good opportunities for us to work with the United States to achieve further action in these important areas. The climate action partnership is one which is going to be under Ministerial control and supervision, but will be a deep partnership that will involve not only our officials in the relevant major departments concerned with action on climate change, but will also involve our scientists and researchers and involve industry as well. We're very keen that there should be an industry dimension to this partnership because, as I've said, the position of industry in an international situation, where emission reduction is an important objective of different countries, is improved to the extent that there are transparent validated registers of positive action to bring about emission reductions in greenhouse gases. This visit of mine has been prompted by the statement by President Bush on climate change. We see that this statement is important in the total international picture from Australia's point of view because Australia has expressed concern at the fact that we need to have a whole global approach to the bringing about of effective action on greenhouse gas emissions. Kyoto unfortunately is not a proposal which is going to involve all countries. Australia has committed itself to work to achieving its Kyoto target, but we need to recognise that if we're going to get global action we need to see action obviously on the part of the United States and action on the part of developing countries. President Bush's statement was a very clear indication that the United States intends to put into place a program to address the issue of climate change and I saw the statement as opening an opportunity for Australia to engage positively and constructively with the United States in developing a number of the issues that are going to be important to us in Australia in making sure that, as far as possible, we're a part of an effective global response to climate change. The two releases I've issued set out the nature of the agreement and partnership between the United States and Australia and also put the partnership in an Australian context. Now with those introductory comments I'm happy to take any questions.

Journalist: So what specifically, Dr Kemp, are we agreeing to in this partnership? What does it mean in Australia?

Kemp: Well the specific feature of the partnership is that it involves practical exchanges and cooperation between Australia and the United States on key matters for policy affecting climate change. Specifically we're looking at our scientists working with American scientists on key issues concerned with greenhouse gases and emission reduction; we're looking at our businesses working and talking with businesses in the United States on technology changes and other areas that are important to effective action on greenhouse gas emission; we're looking to exchange information about work that we've done and work that's ongoing in the United States on matters such as carbon accounting and on the development of register records of emissions reduction which are clear and transparent and verifiable. This is something that's very important of course to all companies in our countries. It's particularly important to companies that have got international linkages. Multinational companies operating in Australia would clearly benefit from some harmonisation of the emission accounting arrangements that exist in the two countries. And I consider that this partnership is going to be a very valuable contribution towards achieving that.

Journalist: Isn't emission accounting an ongoing science, technology etc...isn't this the cart before the horse when we haven't got an agreement on reducing carbon emissions? In fact the other day President Bush put off asking the utilities to meet emissions standards until 2018 -- four presidential terms away. Aren't we getting involved in all this minutiae? I mean we haven't got an agreement on reducing it, aren't we going a bit before we've actually got something attainable?

Kemp: Well they're not minutiae. These are absolutely fundamental to achieving effective action on climate change and emissions reduction. Unless we can get the science right, unless we can get the accounting systems right, unless we can take some action to improve harmonisation across international boundaries, we're not going to get the kind of global action that Australia has always seen as being necessary.

Journalist: There are doubts about the commitment of countries like Australia and the United States towards reducing, really reducing carbon emissions, that's what I'm saying.

Kemp: Well Australia has put a billion dollars into its programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, in a number of cases our programs are actually world-leading. The Greenhouse Challenge Program is proving to be a very effective program to bring Australian companies into a process where they can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. We are probably leading the world in terms of carbon accounting in so far as land use change is concerned -- carbon accounting in relation to sinks. We've got knowledge there that can be very useful as the United States moves, as the President has indicated, towards setting up a register of greenhouse gas emissions reductions for companies so that they can gain credit for the work that they've done.

Journalist: What's Australia's position on President Bush's statement? Do we support that? Do we think that's a better way to go than Kyoto now? What's Australia's position?

Kemp: Well, our position is that we see global action as being critically important, and we welcome the President's statement because we see that, in a number of respects, the thinking behind is very similar to the thinking behind Australia's own position. It's a statement which clearly recognises the importance of taking action in a way that does not undermine the economies of countries like the United States and Australia. On the contrary, it's action which is designed to introduce new technology and maintain and be consistent with continued economic growth. We're very pleased at the element of the President's statement where he talked about the engagement of the United States with developing countries because developing countries are not part of the Kyoto agreement in its first commitment stage and at the moment there's no clear pathway for the involvement of developing countries in Kyoto. The President has indicated that there is going to be an American engagement with developing countries and that's an area where we would very much like to be in a partnership with the United States because we think that in our own region we could have a constructive role to play there.

Journalist: You say we spent a billion dollars on greenhouse programs but our emissions are still rising aren't they - Australian emissions are still rising?

Kemp: Well what Australia has said is that we will seek to work towards achieving the target we negotiated at Kyoto. Our Kyoto target recognised Australia's particular situation and the structure of our economy and the structure of our industry. Now that Kyoto target is 8 percent over 1990 emissions. Now that's what Australia is working towards and that's a realistic contribution, a responsible contribution from Australia, in the global context.

Journalist: But it's what we say and what we do isn't it? Our actual emissions are up, up much further, and we've done nothing to stop approvals of a further coal-fired power station, particularly in Queensland, have we?

Kemp: Well when you say emissions are up, we believe that the Kyoto target is a reasonable target for Australia to be working towards and that's the commitment of the government and that's why we've invested a billion dollars in working towards achieving that target.

Journalist: So what is the federal government's position on further use of coal-fired power stations - particularly in Queensland? There are several on the books in Queensland and under your new environment laws I believe you have final veto power on that -- are you just going to wave them through?

Kemp: Well I haven't had submissions made to me in relation to that. But what I can say is that we are very determined that we will move towards the Kyoto target that we've negotiated and that Australia will take responsible action to make a contribution to the worldwide action that's required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And Australia is clearly moving away from a business-as-usual approach. The target that we've set is a target that makes a significant change to business-as-usual, and we want to see that strongly supported in policy decisions that we take.

Journalist: A couple of key elements in Bush's statement the other day were that the action would be voluntary and there'd be a tax incentive. Is that something that the Australian government sees as important to sustaining a reduction in carbon emissions -- a voluntary approach and the use of tax incentives?

Kemp: Well as I say -- we've got a program which we call the Greenhouse Challenge Program which invited companies in Australia to engage with the government in a partnership to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and there's been a very good response to that program. We saw the President's statement as offering an opportunity for Australia to engage with the United States in discussing our relative experiences and to gain a sense of where the United States policy may develop in the future because clearly effective action by the United States is very important to us.

Journalist: What about tax breaks for low emission cars? It seems that President Bush has floated that in the last couple of days -- any chance of that in Australia?

Kemp: Well I'm not going to foreshadow policy decisions in Australia. I won't comment on that. All I want to say today is that we see ourselves as working very closely with the United States in a practical way to deal with these sort of issues.

Journalist: Was there any discussion with anybody here in the Administration about the status of David Hicks at all.

Kemp: No that didn't come up.

ends//


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