Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
19 August 2002
The analysis by Dr Christoff is what you would expect from the Convenor of the Victorian Greens and a member of the Board of Greenpeace (Australia).
This new report is an excuse to trot out a familiar agenda - there can never be enough money, effort or strong enough legislative action to satisfy those who oppose Australia’s economic system and society.
Australia’s record internationally on environment and sustainable development issues is one of which we can be proud. The real facts on that proud record can be found in a far more credible report; the Australian National Assessment Report, which has been submitted to the WSSD.
That record includes the facts that:
- we are world leaders in many of our initiatives to combat global warming;
- we are world leaders on protection of whales, migratory marine and bird species and coral reefs;
- we have taken the lead internationally in promoting the need for better conservation and management of the biodiversity of the deep oceans and high seas - a stand which has won widespread plaudits from the NGO community;
- Australia has just pledged to provide over $68 million to the Global Environment Facility over the next three years to help developing countries address key environmental problems, a 58 per cent increase over the previous contribution and the largest percentage increase by any country for this period.
Australia has also made strong domestic advances towards sustainability in the last ten years.
- The State of the Environment Report 2001 reported that: our urban air is cleaner, our efforts to economise on domestic water usage are succeeding, our houses are more energy efficient, streetscapes and parks are improving, industries are developing codes of practice on environmental management, we are better able to assess the health of our rivers, the 90% reduction in rabbit numbers from the calicivirus has improved vegetative cover in much of Australia, we are managing our marine resources better; and globally the ozone loss over Antarctica appears to have stabilised.
- The environment has been brought into the mainstream of national policy. The Prime Minister now chairs a new Sustainable Development committee of Cabinet to ensure that sustainable development is at the heart of all government policy.
- $ 1.5 billion has been spent on the Natural Heritage Trust, and a further $1 billion has been committed for the next four years. This far exceeds the financial commitment to the environment by any previous Australian government.
- Together with the $1.4 billion National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality, this represents the biggest environmental rescue package ever rolled out across this continent.
- This Government has a comprehensive domestic program to address climate change worth almost A$1 billion which will have delivered 60 million tonnes of greenhouse gas abatement by the end of the decade – the equivalent of taking every passenger car off Australia’s roads and puts us within reach of meeting our Kyoto target. This level of expenditure, coupled with the commitments made by states and territories, places Australia among the leading nations addressing climate change.
- National roles and responsibilities for the environment have been clarified. This is of great importance given that State and Local Governments will inevitably continue to have major responsibilities for the environment.
- National environment legislation has been integrated and strengthened in the EPBC Act, which incorporates ESD principles.
- Goals and strategies that incorporate ESD principles have been put in place. Key initiatives include the Natural Heritage Trust, COAG Water Reform, the COAG Salinity and Water Quality Action Plan, the National Greenhouse Strategy, the National Oceans Policy, and Regional Forest Agreements.
Our own problems are echoed across the world, but it is worth remembering that many other countries face far greater and more systemic problems than Australia does, not just on environment but more fundamentally on issues like health. In the international debate, while we disagree on some issues from time to time, usually we share with other countries what the goal is as well as a clear and urgent sense of the need to move towards sustainability.
That's why I'm going to Johannesburg next week - to help set a forward agenda that will take account of everyone’s concerns, across the globe.
Australia’s priorities at the World Summit on Sustainable Development will be to:
- secure a plan of implementation that identifies priorities for sustainable development and sets out a framework for international and national action;
- improves international oceans management including through reform of relevant, existing United Nations bodies;
- consolidate international progress made on sustainable agriculture;
- promote the benefits of globalisation and of good national governance, acknowledging their role in achieving sustainable development;
- highlight the contribution of trade liberalisation to sustainable development as well as the importance of international aid for development; and
- work with others in voluntary partnerships to implement international sustainable development activities in line with the Plan of Implementation.
“At Johannesburg we will work constructively for practical and achievable outcomes, promote Australia’s strong record in implementing sustainable development at home and through international partnerships and build on our bilateral and regional relations,” Dr Kemp said.
A full copy of the Australian National Assessment Report can be found at the Environment Australia website: http://www.ea.gov.au/commitments/wssd/index.html
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400