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Australia will insist that the outcome of current international negotiations on climate change safeguards Australia's particular economic and trade interests.
Australia is particularly vulnerable to the economic impacts of coordinated OECD-wide measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are the world's largest coal exporter and we specialise in greenhouse-gas intensive exports such as petroleum products, basic metals, chemicals, cereals and livestock.
The negotiations are taking place under the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) which will hold its second conference in Geneva in July.
The Government will be actively campaigning to ensure that all countries bear their fair share of the global burden of addressing climate change.
In doing so, each country's economic structure and resource base, the need to maintain strong and sustainable growth, available technologies and other individual circumstances will need to be taken into account.
In the longer term, an effective response to climate change will need to involve developing countries, which will account for more than half the world's greenhouse gas emissions by 2000.
While the current round of negotiations will not result in new commitments for developing countries, the door should be kept open for this.
Climate change is a most important international environment issue for the Government.
At the first Conference of the Parties for the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Berlin in March 1995, governments agreed to initiate negotiations on a new set of commitments for developed countries applying to the post-2000 period (the 'Berlin Mandate').
The Government is committed to fulfilling its commitments under the Convention and participating actively in the Berlin Mandate negotiations.
We will demonstrate that Australia is contributing to the global effort of addressing climate change through our National Greenhouse Response Strategy and several initiatives that the Government is pursuing.
The Government is undertaking a major review of the Strategy with the states and all relevant stakeholders. The objective of this review is to bring our national response in line with our current international obligations. Unlike the situation under the Labor Government, this will result in a strategic and dynamic response to climate change which is capable of protecting our economic interests.
A White Paper on sustainable energy policies will be developed. This will address a range of issues including increasing efficiency in the supply and use of energy, reforms in the electricity and gas markets and the emergence of a national energy market.
All of which will contribute significantly to Australia's improved performance on greenhouse issues.
In particular, through the White Paper process, the Government will consider developing an energy services market - open to all forms of energy, including renewables - which will allow Australia to put greater emphasis on energy efficiency.
The Natural Heritage Trust of Australia, to be funded by the partial sale of Telstra, will provide the Government with the opportunity to address greenhouse through action centred on enhancing sustainable agriculture and improving land management practice.
In particular, $318 million will be directed to the National Vegetation Initiative which will help offset our greenhouse gas emissions. The Government is also committed to conducting Australia's first national air pollution enquiry.
"Through the 'Greenhouse Challenge', the Government is seeking to capitalise on Australian industry's capacity to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The Challenge will allow companies to demonstrate they are serious about limiting greenhouse gas emissions consistent with growth and competitiveness.
Unlike the Labor Government, we have reached agreements with a number of major Australian companies and industry associations, the details of which will be announced by the Minister for Resources later this week.
We have also asked Commonwealth departments to identify options for early action to accelerate current 'no regrets' measures and to identify additional areas where the Commonwealth can take further 'no regrets' measures.
Consultation with industry and non-government organisations on Australia's approach would continue to ensure that Australia's national interests, both economic and environmental, are taken into account in these negotiations. The Government will not be entering into substantive new obligations as a result of negotiations without further reference to Cabinet.
For further information contact, Peter Collins [Mr Downer's office] on 277 7500, Matt Brown [Senator Hill's office] on 277 7640 and Bob Baudino [Senator Parer's office] on 277 7400.