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

Transcript
2GB
Philip Clarke
Thursday, 5 September 2002


E&OE

Subjects: WSSD, Kyoto


Clarke:

Why aren’t we signing up?

Dr Kemp:

Well there are two important aspects of this. One is whether you ratify the treaty and the other one is you actually take some practical action to reduce the greenhouse gases that seem to be warming the earths climate. And Australia is right at the leadership of countries that are actually taking good practical action.

Clarke:

But okay the point is, that we won’t ratify, we’re not signing up to this Protocol. Why?

Dr Kemp:

Well, the main reason is that in our part of the world, there would virtually be no countries; none of our main competitors would be taking on any of the kind of the legal obligations that Australia would be taking on. And if we signed up, we’d be giving a message that although we thought this was a very unsatisfactory treaty, because it doesn’t cover 75 per cent of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, we were nevertheless prepared to impose legal obligations on our companies, that companies in our main competitor nations don’t have. And that would risk driving investment off shore, risking thousands and thousands of Australian jobs.

Clarke:

But these are all arguments, and you know, tell me why this is so, these are all arguments that could have been advanced by every other industrialised country. But most of them have signed up.

Dr Kemp:

No that’s not the case. Our situation is entirely different to that Europe, because in Europe, all the European countries are signing up. So in that region of the world, every country is accepting the same obligations. In our region of the world, virtually no country is accepting those obligations. (Inaudible) … countries that could be receiving investment that could otherwise come to Australia.

Clarke:

So no-one in Asia is signing up?

Dr Kemp:

Well, none of them are accepting the legal obligations. You see the legal obligations only fall on developed countries, so when India and China sign up, they’re not accepting any legal obligations under the treaty of the kind that we’d be accepting. So their situation is entirely different. Now you mentioned Canada. Now Canada is in a very difficult situation because as we know the United States has not signed up. And although the Canadian Prime Minister very early on in the piece said that he would like Canada to ratify the treaty, Canada has really backed away from that. And he has now decided later in the year, to throw that into the Canadian Parliament because Canadian industry is very concerned that accepting all sorts of burdens on itself, which the United States, just across the border doesn’t have.

Clarke:

Yeah, but they are…

Dr Kemp:

That situation is in a way a bit comparable to ours but they are in the situation and that’s why they’ve delayed their decision.

Clarke:

I know but they are at least moving towards accepting it. We’re just putting our head in the sand and saying no aren’t we?

Dr Kemp:

Well, they probably will accept it, but it’s a matter for their Parliament and there’s a big national debate to go on in Canada.

Clarke:

It would be a matter for our Parliament here too for that matter.

Dr Kemp:

Well, if we ratify the treaty, obviously it will go through our processes and it will be a decision for the government. But the great difficulty we’ve got is that Kyoto is going to make about one per cent difference to global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not going to change the situation dramatically. Most of the gases that are warming the atmosphere are not covered by Kyoto because they’re coming out of the developing countries, and the United States, and they’re not covered. And what we really need is a global framework that embraces all the major emitters. And until there’s a pathway for the involvement of developing countries in a global framework, we’re not making a serious effort to address this issue.

Clarke:

Well that may be, but why are we one of the few countries that seems to have this view? As you say all of Europe’s doing it. They’re all sophisticated, manufacturing and industrial countries. They’re all doing it. You’ve got these big heavy weights in our region, India and China doing it, Russia’s doing it. The United States is not and we’re not.

Dr Kemp:

Russia’s not in our region and Russia doesn’t have to do anything because Russia’s got all these surplus credits because its economy collapsed after the (inaudible) period of the 1990’s. So Russia is not going to have to do anything. It’s going to have all these credits that it’s hoping to sell to the Europeans so they don’t have to do so much. The key point is this, coming back Philip to the earlier point, virtually none of the countries in our region, our major competitors, are accepting legal obligations of the kind that we would have to accept if we ratify, because …

Clarke:

Explain what that means. I mean if we sign up to this thing, I mean, what does it mean, say for example to a coal mine, sorry, a coal burning power station in Victoria or here in New South Wales? Does it mean anything?

Dr Kemp:

Well, we would then be saying to those countries that are making long-term investments at the moment, look although we think this treaty is absolutely unsatisfactory and although we’ve said that right through the negotiations, we’re prepared to impose all sorts of legal obligations and costs on you, which if you went to Malaysia, or you went to India, or you went to China, you wouldn’t carry. Now which country would you like to invest in over the next 20 years? And that’s an invitation for jobs to move offshore and create unemployment in Australia that we don’t need to create. So, what we’re doing, is actually taking some very sensible and practical action to meet our Kyoto target, while not giving future investors the message that they’re going to be subject to all sorts of obligations they’re not going to meet in the countries nearby. Our situation is totally different to the European countries, because they’re all accepting the same framework.

Clarke:

Yeah, but hang on, Mr Kemp why is it different? If the European countries are saying this, aren’t the European countries saying to companies that might want to set up in Europe, well go to Africa or go to Asia? I mean why is it different?

Dr Kemp:

Are you going to pause for a moment Philip and let me reply? We’re one of the few countries in the world, which is a major importer these days of foreign investment and advocating further investment from companies already here in our great resource industry. We’re one of the world’s great resource nations. We have a completely different kind of economy to the economy, which exists in Europe. And so the implications for the European countries who will be buying Russian hot air and credits to meet their target and taking very little action, is very different to the situation in Australia, where we would be the only country in our region accepting these obligations. If you want to shift jobs offshore, if you want companies to invest in India and China, Malaysia, where the regulations governing their greenhouse gas emissions are much less tight than in Australia …

Clarke:

Hang on, India and China say they support Kyoto.

Dr Kemp:

We’re not going to ratify Philip, until we get a global framework, which imposes a similar set of obligations on all the countries who are our major competitors and which can bring in the United States and the developing countries.

Ends

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