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Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
12 May 2006
High Level Segment: 14th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development
Check against delivery
Thank you Mister Chairman, and let me thank the panel for a stimulating introduction.
Mister Chairman, the challenge of meeting our sustainable development goals in the areas of energy, industrial development, air pollution and climate change is stark. This review session of CSD has demonstrated that we need to implement integrated solutions to the challenge if we are to make progress.
We also need to recognise that countries, at different stages of development, need to implement strategies that suit their situation.
If environmental measures are to become a priority in the developing world, they need to be shown to also support economic growth.
This is more often the case than not.
For example, worsening air pollution is harmful to public health and to the requirements of a productive economy. Also, measures that improve energy efficiency lift productivity and curb carbon dioxide emissions.
Access to energy is essential for economic growth. And access to energy requires solid national governance arrangements in order to attract private sector investment and assure donor confidence.
Some fundamental prerequisites for achieving a more rapid deployment of efficient energy distribution in many countries are absent, but essential. More robust development will only occur with a breakthrough in the Doha Round that boosts world trade by substantially reducing barriers to cross-border commerce.
Sustainable development will only occur with high quality governance, markets based on secure property rights, transparency and accountability. The elimination of corruption is paramount. The multi-billion dollar investment required across the globe to achieve clean development and breakthroughs on climate change will only be obtained when these prerequisites are achieved.
Mister Chairman - to meet our common global development goals, we must commit to greatly increased energy use in the next few decades - increased energy use in the developing world for household, commercial and industrial activity.
Paradoxically, during the next few decades we must also pursue deep reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions to hold atmospheric concentrations at a safe level.
Mister Chairman - what are the realities of our global energy mix over the next few decades as we try to meet these two apparently conflicting imperatives?
Renewable energy - such as wind, solar, hydrogen and geothermal - will play an increasingly important part in the energy mix over time. But renewables will remain a relatively small proportion of the mix during the timeframe in which we need to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations and reach our Millennium Development Goals.
Fossil fuels - coal, natural gas and oil - will remain the basis of the world’s energy supply for the medium term. That is the reality that we face. To face this reality is not defeatist or anti-renewables – it is practical reality.
That reality underlines the importance of working urgently together in global partnerships to reduce the net emissions from fossil fuels - developing such initiatives as clean coal technology and carbon sequestration.
The renewables industry and its promoters should not be the enemies of the fossil fuel industry. Increasingly the solutions to our historic development and environmental challenge will be in hybrids – combining renewable energy technologies with fossil fuels to improve efficiency.
If we are to achieve our MDGs for the benefit of those in developing countries, we need to make economies more resilient. We also need to ensure our ecosystems are maintained in good health. To ensure both, we need to build a hybrid world.
A "hybrid world" will draw together different technologies and different fuels resulting in the deployment of the most economically effective energy solutions - at the household level, the industrial installation level, the neighbourhood level and even at the national level.
To give a practical example, Australia’s premier scientific agency, (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation – CSIRO), is developing the hybrid energy concept by integrating natural gas and solar thermal energy for advanced power generation systems and transportation fuel.
The hydrogen energy system uses concentrated solar thermal energy to reform natural gas (methane) and steam into a mixture of carbon dioxide and hydrogen. In so doing, the energy content of the natural gas is increased by around 26%. Variants on the process can produce fuel gases in which the energy content of the natural gas is boosted by up to 40% with solar energy. The process enables very high efficiency power generation with greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Mister Chairman, as Governments we should generally remain technology-neutral in how we approach this challenge. We should be the enablers of innovative technologies such as the one I have just mentioned, otherwise we will inflict additional costs on our economies, retard economic growth and leave more people in poverty.
A tonne of carbon saved from more efficient fossil fuel use or sequestration is as good as a tonne saved by renewable energy. The key question is, which will be cheaper for any given situation? Well-designed market mechanisms will have a crucial place in efficiently giving us the answer, and in delivering emissions reductions.
Being technology-neutral does not mean being indifferent to technological progress. There is a clear role for government working with industry to stimulate research and development and to encourage the pre-commercial development of technologies.
Over the long run we will need to develop major shifts in technology across all these areas to drive deep reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s increased energy use. The research needed to make these shifts is properly the subject of partnerships between the private sector and governments.
Mister Chairman, Australia is committed to practical partnerships between governments and the private sector as the backbone of our response to the global challenge.
The world will make many trillions of dollars of investment in energy generation and supply over the next few decades. How this investment is made will set the pattern for greenhouse gas emissions; access to energy for the poor; and health outcomes for developing countries’ urban and rural people.
It is the private sector that will drive innovation and investment in low emission energy generation and supply. It is the private sector that must be involved in the partnerships to drive the change we need.
The Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate, recently launched in Sydney, is a practical example of tailoring solutions to the unique needs of member countries.
The six partnership countries make up about half the world’s population, half the world’s GDP and half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. These countries face different challenges, but are all committed to working collaboratively – governments and the private sector – to the development of technological shifts that are essential for the reduction in pollution and greenhouse gases.
In closing, Mister Chairman, Australia has submitted 14 case studies to the CSD Secretariat to share our practical experiences – a major objective of the reformed CSD process. In response to wide expressions of enthusiasm for these cases studies, I have made them available to the plenary today on the table at the back of the room. I commend them to the Commission – and look forward to learning from the experiences of others.