Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Dr Peter Manins, Environmental Consulting and Research Unit, CSIRO Atmospheric Research, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06746 9
This section reports on international research and regulations relevant to management of the atmospheric environment. It also presents information on relevant Commonwealth, state and local government regulations and initiatives, as well as highlighting activities undertaken by industry and by non-government organisations to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants.
Australian scientists are making a significant contribution to international research into the science and likely effects of climate change. The IPCC, which was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is undertaking an assessment of this research. Their third assessment report was completed in 2001, and is the most comprehensive analysis yet of climate change science, effects and projections. As well as the assessment reports (IPCC 1996 and 2001), the IPCC produces technical papers and develops methodologies, such as for conducting national greenhouse gas inventories.
The IPCC is organised into three working groups: I concentrates on the science of climate change, II on effects and response options, and III on economic and social dimensions of climate change.
In June 1992, Australia along with more than 150 other nations signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The objective of the Convention is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. The Convention aims to achieve stability within a time frame that will allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change and to ensure food production is not threatened and economic development is able to proceed in a sustainable manner. The Convention came into force in March 1994.
One of the requirements of the Framework Convention on Climate Change is that developed countries that are party to the Convention produce annual national greenhouse gas emission inventories.
The inventories are designed to underpin development of greenhouse gas reduction measures and monitoring and reviewing of these measures, as well as assessing progress towards our national emissions reduction target.
Australia has also made two comprehensive reports on its commitments under the Convention. The first national communication (DEST 1994) outlined the action that Australia was taking to reduce emissions, and provided estimates of national emissions and future projections. DEST (1997), the second national communication, updated this information.
Some 180 governments have now ratified the treaty. Representatives meet regularly at the annual Conference of the Parties to review implementation of the Convention and continue talks on how best to tackle climate change.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change was strengthened by the Kyoto Protocol, agreed in December 1997. The Protocol represents a significant advance in international efforts to combat global warming. For the first time, developed countries have agreed to consider legally binding commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and address the threat of climate change.
As a whole, developed countries are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% by 2008 to 2012 from 1990 levels. However, at Kyoto, Australia negotiated an 8% increase in emissions in the target period, and this has already been more than doubled (see Climate variability and change).
Under the Kyoto Protocol, countries must measure and report on their greenhouse gas emissions and describe how they are meeting their obligations. As recognising that developed countries have different economic circumstances and differing capacities to make emissions reductions, the Protocol's greenhouse gas emissions targets vary.
Although over 80 countries have agreed to the Kyoto Protocol, it may be several years before it comes into force, if indeed it at all. The Protocol includes actions only by industrialised nations.
The Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, agreed upon in Vienna in 1985, determined to take 'appropriate measures... to protect human health and the environment against adverse effects resulting or likely to result from human activities which modify or are likely to modify the Ozone Layer'.
The Vienna Convention underpinned the 1987 formulation of the Montreal Protocol, an intergovernmental agreement to restrict the manufacture and use of ozone-depleting substances. It was discovery of actual stratospheric ozone damage that led to establishment of the Montreal Protocol, which has now been signed by over 165 countries.
Since its inception, the Protocol has been regularly revised and tightened in response to scientific findings on atmospheric growth rates of ozone-depleting chemicals and on measurements of ozone destruction.
Production of the most damaging ozone-depleting substances, including CFCs and halons, was eliminated, except for a few critical uses, by 1996 in developed countries and will be eliminated by 2010 in developing countries.
Hundreds of scientists worldwide write and review the periodic WMO/UNEP 'state-of-the-science' assessments of ozone depletion (WMO 1999); hundreds of additional scientists write the studies that are referenced within them.