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Transcript
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Transcript
Nick McCallum
3AW
Thursday, 5 September 2002


E&OE

Subjects: WSSD, Kyoto


Nick McCallum:

We have David Kemp, the Environment Minister, on the line from Johannesburg. Overnight, he addressed the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, explaining why Australia will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions. Dr Kemp, I appreciate your time, thank you very much.

Dr Kemp:

Not at all, Nick, good to be with you.

McCallum:

Now, only Australia and America of the developed nations have refused to ratify this Protocol. I would imagine we're not the most popular people in the world at this Summit?

Dr Kemp:

Well, I would say Australia had a very good Summit and there's a lot of regard for Australia at the Summit. And, despite what some in the media are saying, we are not subject to condemnation or criticism by the countries at the Summit over our attitude; because they understand that Australia is going about reducing its greenhouse gases, probably in a way, a much more thorough way, than most other countries. Of course the countries that have signed up to the Kyoto Protocol would like us to sign up …

McCallum:

Yeah, and overnight.

Dr Kemp:

…but they realise that Australia has got its own reasons.

McCallum:

Overnight, China, Russia, India, and of course, Canada, have indicated they will all do it.

Dr Kemp:

Well, China and India are in a very different situation to Australia because they're developing countries and they don't accept any of the legal obligations under the Protocol, obligations that Australia would have to accept. And that's really Australia's problem that we're in a region of the world where none of our major competitors would have to accept any of the legal obligations we'd have to accept, because we're a developed country. We're a developed country, and they're developing countries. So, we'd risk driving industries and jobs offshore if we signed up. We'd be saying to people who are wanting to invest in Australia, and companies that were wanting to make some new long-term investments, well, look, we're prepared to impose all sorts of burdens on you, that you wouldn't face if you invested in India or Malaysia or China. Which country would you like to invest in? And the answer is…

McCallum:

But, but, Dr Kemp …

Dr Kemp:

… pretty obvious.

McCallum:

But, Dr Kemp, the point remains though, that Australia is getting close to those levels anyway. So why not ratify it and why not impose it on other countries that aren't getting close?

Dr Kemp:

Well, what we need is a good long-term global framework in which all the major emitters can be part of global greenhouse gas reduction, because unless we do that, we're not going to have an impact. Australia only produces one per cent of global emissions. Seventy-five per cent of global emissions are not covered by Kyoto. Kyoto's going to make about a one per cent difference. And we don't want to give a message to investors who are going to make long-term decisions, that even though we think this treaty's quite unsatisfactory, we're nevertheless prepared to impose all sorts of burdens on you if you invest here in Australia. But if you invest offshore, you're not going to have those burdens imposed on you. Our situation's totally different to that of the European countries, where they're all going to sign up. And of course, many of them are going to be depending on Russian credits to reach their targets, rather than taking real action. Whereas in Australia, we're taking real action, we're working to meet our targets, but we're saying to the world, you've got to have a global framework that can involve the United States and the developing countries.

McCallum:

Some of the small island nations, like Tuvalu, say, for instance, are talking about suing countries like Australia because in years to come, they fear they will be swamped, because of the greenhouse gas issue.

Dr Kemp:

Well, look, I heard one Minister say that. That's not the official position of the government, and I don't believe that's going to happen. The Pacific Islands…

McCallum:

But obviously that indicates the strength of feeling some of the Pacific Island nations have towards countries like Australia and America at the moment.

Dr Kemp:

Well, look, I wouldn’t exaggerate that, because the Prime Minister was at a Pacific Island forum, recently, and they all acknowledged the great job that Australia's actually doing in cutting down on its greenhouse gases. I mean, they see that Australia is a serious country in trying to address the problem. And we have to be serious, because global warming could have quite a big impact on Australia. We've already had some major bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef that kill the corals. We've had a 40 per cent decline in rainfall across western and south-west, Western Australia over the last few years. We've got to see an effective global response. Now the problem is, Kyoto is not the answer to that. Australia's doing what it can, but it's only a small part of a total problem. And countries like India and China have got to ultimately be part of this global approach, as has the United States. And Kyoto isn't delivering on that.

McCallum:

Many of the conservation groups say we're basically currying favour here with the United States. We're jumping on board with the United States here.

Dr Kemp:

Well, that's really a ridiculous statement, because our position is quite different to the United States'. You see, the United States is not planning to reach its Kyoto target …

McCallum:

So, have you…

Dr Kemp:

It's very dissatisfied with its Kyoto target. We are planning to reach ours.

McCallum:

So, have you spoken to the United States and told them that you don't think they're doing a good enough job when it comes to greenhouse gases?

Dr Kemp:

Well, of course we've spoken to the United States. In fact, we now have …

McCallum:

And you've said that? And you've said you're not happy with them?

Dr Kemp:

Well, we don't go around and tell other countries how bad we think they are. What we say is, we'd like to see effective action from you, we'd like to see you adopting our, say, our accounting approach for carbon, which is a world-leading approach that we've developed, and we've now got a Climate Action Partnership with the United States. We're working on some 19 projects together to help each other take more effective action and indeed, to do things for other countries as well, so that we can build up this global response that Australia desperately needs.

McCallum:

When you criticised the United States, what was their reaction? Just out of interest.

Dr Kemp:

Well, the United States is very conscious of the fact that this is a problem. The United States administration recognises that they have got to take some stronger action, and they're looking at the action that they're taking. And what we're doing is trying to encourage them to take action in a way that contributes to building towards a more effective global response. And they understand that.

McCallum:

Okay. And to finalise, sir, many of the politicians leaving the Summit said it fell well short of setting out a blueprint for reducing poverty and cleaning up the environment and a couple of them said this is probably going to be the last ever global mega-conference on this issue. Is that fair?

Dr Kemp:

Well, I don't know which politicians you're referring to. All the governments …

McCallum:

A Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, for instance, is quoted here.

Dr Kemp:

Yeah, well, Venezuela is the leader of the G77. They're the main developing countries. And they indicated that they were very happy with the broad outcomes of the Summit …

McCallum:

He's called for a radical change of format.

Dr Kemp:

Look, you can't expect too much of the Summit. Inevitably there's a great deal of talk there. But I think if one is practical about it, what the Summit has done, is to focus attention on the problem of world poverty. It set some 37 targets for improvement, including halving the number of people in poverty by 2015 and making sure that many more people have access to proper sanitation and clean drinking water. There are a lot of practical projects that came out of the Summit, and I think, on balance, the Summit has been a very positive step forward. It is going to focus the world's attention on getting electricity to the people who at the moment have only got the option of burning up the vegetation around them to provide heat and power. It's going to have some positive impacts, and I think overall it's a step forward.

McCallum:

Okay. Dr Kemp, thank you very much. I know you're in a bit of a hurry, so, thank you very much. That's Dr David Kemp, the Environment Minister, joining us from Johannesburg.

Ends

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