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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

19 November 2002

Beyond Kyoto - Australia and US Collaboration on Climate Change and Oceans


Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today met with US Undersecretary of Commerce and Administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher to discuss important developments in new climate science occurring as a result of the joint Australia-US Climate Action Partnership, (CAP).

Dr Kemp and Vice Admiral Lautenbacher reviewed progress on innovative joint projects that will help to better predict the world's climate and help reduce the impacts of climate extremes such as droughts and floods and announced the commencement of joint US -Australia work on the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE).

"Droughts have a serious impact, not only on Australia's and the United States' economy, but also that of other countries in our region. These projects will help improve climate prediction," Dr Kemp said.

"In July this year I announced 19 projects under the Australia-US Climate Action Partnership (CAP).
Eight of these projects relate to climate and ocean research and monitoring and today I am delighted to announce with Vice Admiral Lautenbacher the collaboration between our two countries on this important global monitoring programme."

"A key element of GODAE is the Argo programme, through which Australia and the US are leading a global effort to populate the world's oceans with 3,000 highly sophisticated robotic floats which will measure the temperature, salinity and currents down to depths of two thousand metres, in much the same way as weather balloons are used to measure the atmosphere.

"But GODAE is a lot bigger than the Argo project alone. GODAE will also bring together a wide range of ocean observations, using satellites as well as traditional systems like surface-drifting buoys and floats, to measure sea surface temperature, surface winds and wave heights. GODAE will also develop ways of using these detailed observations to improve our understanding of how the oceans drive the global climate."

"By improving our detailed knowledge of the marine climate, we will be able to detect the slow, subtle signals that the ocean gives us on climate change. We have learnt that the oceans are one of the most important drivers of the world's climate. This important project will help us to understand and predict climate events like El Nino and understand the relationship between these natural events and climate change.

The better we understand these phenomena, the better we will be able to predict where droughts and floods may strike next.

Information like this is vital to farmers, fisheries and environmental professionals.

"The US spends more US$4.5 billion per year on climate change science, technology and mitigation, and is currently engaging international partners including Australia in expanding a global climate observation system (GCOS)", said Vice Admiral Lautenbacher.

The eight CAP projects under discussion today will:

A full list of these projects is attached.

"Each of these projects is intended to benefit from joint application of US and Australian expertise and the sharing of technology," Dr Kemp added.

"The cooperation between our two countries will reduce key uncertainties and improve the capacity of climate science to inform the policy-making process and assist our pacific island neighbours address climate change."

"Today's meeting represents an important step in moving the Australia-US Climate Action Partnership forward and I would like to thank Vice Admiral Lautenbacher for his commitment to achieving a more sustainable future.

While the Federal Government has decided that at present it is not in Australia's long term interests to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, we are committed to meeting our Kyoto target of 108% of 1990 emissions by the end of the decade. However, the government believes it is time to look well beyond Kyoto and to develop a policy framework that will take Australia into the decades, and not just the years, ahead.

"The Kyoto Protocol is flawed because it will only deliver 1% cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions when science warns the world needs 50% to 60% cuts by the end of the century.

"This is because the Kyoto Protocol does not require greenhouse reductions from developing countries, which will soon be producing more than half the world's greenhouse gases.

Ratification by Australia could shift long term investment in Australian resource-based industries to developing countries, where our strict environmental regime would not apply and could paradoxically increase global greenhouse gas emission as well as exporting Australian jobs and industry.

"Already, the Government's $1 billion greenhouse abatement programs is on track to deliver about 60 million tonnes annually in emissions reductions - the equivalent of taking all passenger cars off Australia's roads. This will take us two-thirds of the way towards achieving our target and forms a strong platform on which to develop Australia's longer-term strategy.

"We are currently working with industry, non government organisations, community groups and local government to frame the next generation of greenhouse policies to help us meet our target - and take us into the decades beyond."

The Australia-US Climate Action Partnership comprises 19 projects covering the following areas: climate change science and monitoring; renewable and reduced emission stationary energy technologies; engagement with business on technology development, and policy design and implementation; capacity building in developing countries; and greenhouse accounting in the forestry and agriculture sectors (see www.greenhouse.gov.au/international/cap.html for more details).

Media Contacts:
Catherine Job Dr Kemp's Office (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400
Melanie James AGO (02) 6274 1586 or 0419 690 516
Mark Jenkin BOM (03) 9669 4552


Backgrounder
Key Elements of Climate and Ocean Research and Monitoring Projects

Evaluation of Climate System Models - Modelling the global climate system

Aerosols and Clouds - Understanding how clouds and aerosols affect climate

Roles of Southern Ocean and Antarctica in Climate - How the Southern Ocean and Antarctica affect climate

Role of the Indian Ocean in the Climate System - How the Indian Ocean influences global climate

NOAA Operational Model Archive and Distribution System (NOMADS) - Sharing climate model results

Atmospheric Measurements in the Southern Ocean - Measuring CO2 in the southern ocean

Applications of Ocean Observations for the Pacific Islands - Observing the Pacific Ocean

Meeting the Needs for Improved Climate Monitoring Systems in the Pacific

Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE)

Commonwealth of Australia