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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Tuesday, 17 September 2002
Thank you again for coming to this doorstop. I wanted to comment on two matters this afternoon. One is the very good news that we've had about the hole in the ozone layer and the effectiveness of the action that's been taken under the Montreal Protocol. I then want to make some comments about Peter Beattie and his acceptance of the fact that the Government is effectively doing the right thing in not ratifying the Protocol.
In relation to the hole in the ozone layer, this is very good news that we have here today. We're seeing the result of effective global action to cut down on ozone depleting substances. Australia has been a leader in the Montreal Protocol. We've taken some of the most important actions internationally.
But the key thing about the ozone hole is that there has been an effective global framework. All countries have been involved. Developing countries have accepted obligations. The developed countries have accepted obligations. And so we are now seeing significant real scientific evidence, that the ozone depleting substances in the atmosphere are diminishing, and the diminishment of those substances is going to have a very positive effect on the hole in the ozone layer.
We're going to see that hole beginning to show signs of closing hopefully by 2005 and scientific advice is that we could actually see the hole completely closed by 2050. So, this is very good news and it shows the importance of having an effective global framework in place to deal with global environmental problems.
Now, this is precisely what the Kyoto Protocol does not put in place. That's the great difference between the Montreal Protocol, in which all countries are accepting obligations and Kyoto, where the obligations are falling only on a group of countries, the developed countries. Instead of covering all the relevant emissions, Kyoto is only covering 25 per cent of the emissions. Instead of aiming at the complete global action necessary to address the problem, as the Montreal Protocol does, Kyoto is going to deliver a one per cent reduction at best in global greenhouse gas emissions over the time of the Protocol, whereas what the world needs by the end of this century is a reduction of 50 to 60 per cent. So, we're seeing a contrast between an effective global framework and a global framework, which is simply not going to do the job.
Now, we've seen some very significant comments in the last 24 hours by the Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie. Peter Beattie has recognised that signing and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol is going to mean the destruction of jobs and industries in Queensland, in Western Australia and other states. He's effectively saying that the Howard Government, in saying that Australia is going to suffer significant long term disadvantage by ratifying the Protocol, is correct.
Peter Beattie is acknowledging that John Howard's decision, the Howard Government's decision, not to ratify Kyoto is soundly based, because the effect of that decision would be to export jobs and industries from Australia. He's recognised that for Queensland. The data on which he's relied demonstrates that that would also be the effect in a number of the other states.
So, this is a very important recognition by a leading figure in the Labor Party. And it puts the spotlight on the failure of Simon Crean and the Federal Labor Party to think through the issue of ratification properly. All that Simon Crean and the Federal Labor Party have done is to join the conga line of people who are not prepared to acknowledge the very damaging impact of ratifying the Protocol on Australian jobs and industries.
The Labor Party hasn't thought it through. There's no leadership there. They are prepared to connive in the destruction of Australian jobs and the export of Australian industries, by advocating ratification. Australia is committed to do the right thing to reduce greenhouse gases. We're one of the countries that again is leading the world in effective action to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. But we are not going to put Australian jobs and industries at risk, and Peter Beattie has recognised that that view is soundly based.
But Dr Kemp, you're committed to meeting the same Kyoto targets. So are you conniving in the destruction of Australian jobs also?
Well, what we are putting very much on the record is that you've got to look beyond 2010. This whole analysis, the underpinning analysis that I put out into the public domain last week, demonstrates that when you look at the longer term, there are very serious costs to Australia in ratifying in terms of jobs and industries and that they relate to quite a number of the states in Australia. So Peter Beattie has recognised that fact.
But we don't have any...
The Labor Party is offering no more than the Government in terms of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. I mean, they say they're going to reach the target. They want to reach the target. They haven't got any particular policies in place to do it, but they say that's their objective. We are going to work to reach that target that we've negotiated. And that is going to mean just bridging the gap between 108 and 111 per cent. But the key underlying issue is the long term impact on the Australian economy of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.
But Mr Beattie did say though at some stage he would like to see Australia ratify the Protocol, some years down the track. Do you think that the Australian Government could have a similar change of mind, or ...?
Well, the Australian Government's view is that there is no pathway at the present time to the involvement of the developing countries who are going to be putting out more greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade than the developed countries. And until there is a pathway for the involvement of developing countries, it wouldn't be in Australia's national interest to ratify the Protocol. Who knows what the future may bring. We're a very long way from having a pathway for developing countries at the moment, because the EU and a number of other countries simply refuse to discuss that at the present time. But Australia will be putting on the international agenda, I'll be arguing at the International Conference of the Parties in November, that we need to have that global framework, which will bring in the developing countries and hopefully, down the track, will bring in the United States. And that will change the situation. But that has not yet occurred.
On the ozone layer, the shrinking of it over time, what do you see as the reasons why this, we've seen such a turnaround and we've been able to see it now start to shrink?
Well, we're seeing the impact of very effective action by a large number of countries. The major countries producing the ozone depleting substances have taken effective action. Australia, for example, has established a halon bank, which is one of the world leaders in that regard. We're now working with India to enable them to take a similar initiative. We've worked with Pacific Island countries and with Vietnam, on getting rid of refrigerants that also release greenhouse gas and ozone depleting emissions. In fact they're both, the emissions that are ozone depleting also are significant greenhouse gases. So this whole approached policy of co-ordinated international action has had a very good effect.
And so what's it going to mean for Australians? I mean, will this mean a healthier area for us? What does it do for us?
Well, in the short-term slip slop slap is still the right approach to treating the summer on the beach because the ozone hole is still there. But I released information earlier this year in the State of the Environment Report that our own assessment is that the hole over Antarctica is now stabilised. We weren't then able to detect any shrinkage. We've now got some projections from scientists involved very closely in the program that we are beginning to see the decline in the gases in the atmosphere and we ought to be able to see some shrinkage in the hole in the ozone layer by 2005 and that's very good news.
Do you think it'll ever close?
Well the projection is that if we continue down the path that we're on at the moment we should see closure in the hole by about the middle of the century. That's looking well ahead, but that's what the scientists are saying.