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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
1 November, 2005
British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plea this week for the world to move beyond the Kyoto Protocol reflects a sweeping change in world opinion on the best way forward to tackle climate change.
Critics of Australia’s stance on climate change – and particularly on Kyoto – would do well to read Mr Blair’s piece, published in a London newspaper in the lead up to the meeting of G8 nations convened by the British PM on 1 November.
Blair leads a country that is a key signatory of Kyoto, and yet he has left no doubt that the Kyoto Protocol will simply not deliver the reductions in greenhouse gases that are needed to curb the threat of climate change.
His comments effectively mirror what Australia has said all along – that is, to have a real impact on climate change, it is imperative to have cooperation from all major countries and all major greenhouse emitters.
At a meeting of 38 environment ministers in Ottawa recently, convened by the incoming President of the UN convention on climate change, the consensus was clear – the time has come to move beyond Kyoto.
It’s a sentiment Tony Blair is now wholeheartedly subscribing to.
Fact: under Kyoto, global greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to grow by around 40 per cent between 1990 and 2012.
Fact: Australia is one of just a handful of nations that is on track to meet its Kyoto emissions target.
Fact: a tonne of greenhouse gas emissions produced by a desalination plant in Sydney would have the same impact on global warming as a tonne of greenhouse gas emissions produced by a power plant outside Beijing.
These three points alone make it clear that Kyoto is not the answer.
Labor’s and the Greens’ policies would effectively shut down all of Australia’s energy production. But if Australia was to close down completely – turning off every school, hospital, car, truck – a rapidly expanding China would replicate those greenhouse gas savings in just 11 months.
Climate change presents the globe with an unprecedented challenge. Saving the climate will require immense cooperation and action – but not just by governments. It is vital to also involve industry and the research community.
The world will need trillions of dollars in investment in new technologies and, in particular, to clean up fossil fuels.
Tony Blair has called for the US, the EU, Russia, Japan, China and India to work together; and argues that the answer lies in the development and deployment of new low-emissions energy technology.
That is why the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate is so important. The partnership aims to bring about practical solutions to the problem of climate change through the development of new technologies.
The membership of the Partnership – Australia, the US, China, India, Japan and Korea – is significant because these six signatory nations represent almost 50 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Australia’s role in technology development is pivotal to this aim.
The Howard Government’s comprehensive $1.8 billion strategy to address climate change includes initiatives such as the $500 million Low Emissions Technology Development Fund – designed to encourage the development of new technologies. This is exactly the approach that Tony Blair is calling for.
Australia has been at the forefront of action on climate change both domestically and internationally. There is no question that we have a seat at the table at the major international discussions on climate change – despite the fact we contribute just 1.4 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
I will address the G8 Dialogue on Climate Change on 1 November, at the invitation of Prime Minister Blair. Later this year, I will lead Australia’s delegation to Montreal to participate in the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change conference.
The world’s energy demands are going to dramatically increase this century. This is a good thing – it will bring benefits to millions of people in the world who do not have the same access to the living standards – health care, education and infrastructure – that we in the developed world enjoy. But the challenge must be to create this extra energy while radically reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we produce.
How we can best meet this challenge will be the focus of the G8 dialogue, as well as the focus of the Montreal discussions next month.
Senator Campbell is the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. He will be attending the G8 Dialogue on Climate Change convened by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on 1 November. He will also participate in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 11) in Montreal in December.