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APEC Ministerial Meeting on Sustainable Development,
Opening Comments on behalf of the Australian Delegation

by the Federal Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill.

11 July 1996

I would like to thank the Philippines for hosting the Sustainable Development meetings.

Australia appreciates the opportunity provided by the Philippines for APEC officials and Ministers responsible for sustainable development to come together and develop ways in which we might ensure that the broader APEC trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation (TILF) and economic and technical cooperation agendas do not lose sight of the fact that development needs to be sustainable, both in environmental and economic terms.

As a new Government, I can assure you of our total commitment to the environment and to the principles of sustainable development. We have proposed the establishment of the most comprehensive program in our nation’s history for the protection and restoration of our natural environment. We will spend $1 billion on environmental protection and restoration through five major capital works programs under our Natural Heritage Trust. Our commitment to the environment at a domestic level is mirrored by our strong commitment to work collaboratively withe the international community, particularly the nations of our region, to deliver economic growth which integrates environment protection as the key principle of sustainable development.

That overarching view of sustainable development has informed Australia’s participation to date in the process of integrating environmental and sustainable development considerations into APEC activities, as agreed by Ministers in Bogor in 1994. The meetings her in Manila provide an important follow up to the series of ad hoc meetings which began in 1994 with a meeting of Environment Ministers in Vancouver. The outcomes of these meetings have been recognised by the APEC SOM, by APEC Ministers and by Leaders. Australia hopes that the outcomes of our meetings this week will mark another step forward in the process of integrating environmental issues within the overall APEC agenda.

Australia welcomes the productive discussions which have occurred over the last two days. This agenda of this meeting will see us address three key issues:

The pressures generated by economic growth have to be balanced with sound environmental considerations. The bulk of the region’s population lives in cities so therefore a key to a better environment is the development of sustainable cities. As President Ramos highlighted this morning, a key to sustaining economic growth lies in addressing the real problems of growing urban centres.

The discussions have produced valuable ways of addressing these challenges. As a highly urbanised developed nation, Australia has a wealth of expertise which will allow us to actively contribute but we can also learn from the experiences of others.

Clean technologies and production processes will be an integral component of enhancing sustainability. We particularly welcome the intention to develop an APEC Cleaner Production Strategy. In Australia we have implemented a number of strategies in partnership with the three levels of government, industry, professional associations and community groups to increase understanding of sustainable development and cleaner production. The focus has been on capacity building, technology transfer and information sharing. To that end we have established a database on the internet - ‘Environment Australia’ - which provides practical examples of how to put in place cleaner production.

Australia fully supports actions to promote the sustainability of the marine environment. At a domestic level we are planning to implement a $100 million Coasts and Clean Seas initiative. In the international environment we have participated actively in the forums in the region. We look forward to working with APEC economies in developing this initiative.

We are looking for a report from sustainable development Ministers for APEC Leaders which clearly demonstrates the relevance of sustainable development concepts and principles tot he APEC agenda, and which is focused on practicable and achievable objectives. This report should reiterate the commitment of APEC Ministers responsible for sustainable development to the 1994 Environmental Vision Statement and Framework Principles, and the Osaka Declaration references to sustainable development. Our commitment to these principles will be emphasised by the practical approaches we have discussed in relation to the three themes. Australia would like to see the report recognise that each member economy has responsibility for sustainable development at the national level, while emphasising that, collectively, APEC can assist national efforts to achieve sustainable development objectives.

Australia believes that our collective goal should be to ensure that work on sustainable development issues which we recommend to APEC Leaders can be done within existing APEC structures, including building upon existing work of the Working Groups and Committees.

We also believe that APEC should continue to take an integrated approach to sustainable development issues. The establishment of a separate process could see marginalisation of sustainable development and uneven, partial progress. We suggest that a separate track for sustainable development risks an attitude that environment and sustainable development are issues taken care of elsewhere, and accordingly they do not need to be fully taken into account in all APEC processes.

We believe that APEC processes and structure provide us with the opportunity to implement practical projects, which are relevant, achievable and add value to the overall APEC agenda. Australia welcomes the opportunity this forum provides us to work collectively on developing strategies to ensure that sustainable development issues are recognised, and to deliver practical proposals for their implementation, within the overall APEC agenda.

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