Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts logo
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts home page

Archived media releases and speeches

Disclaimer

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

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

Insiders
ABC TV
Sunday, 18 August 2002

E&OE

Interview - Latest Greenhouse Data, World Summit on Sustainable Development Delegation


BARRIE CASSIDY:

David Kemp joins us now in the studio.

DR KEMP:

Good morning, Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

You say that we are within striking distance. Is that just another way of saying we missed the target?

DR KEMP:

No, not at all. We have already put a huge effort into positioning Australia to cut down its greenhouse gas emissions. We have put $1 billion into these programs. We have already, through these programs, cut some 60 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, that is about 11 per cent off the number we have to reach to get to our target. So we have already brought it down from 122 to 111 and so we are well within striking distance. I don't diminish the difficulty of making the extra 3 per cent. It is going to take a big effort throughout the community, it is going to take a big effort from industry, it is going to take a big effort from agriculture, from families. Households contribute about 20 per cent of our greenhouse emissions and there are a lot of simple and good things that families and households can do to cut down on their emissions. So I think we are within striking difference.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

So we can get there, in what sort of time range?

DR KEMP:

I'm very optimistic we will get there within the time range that we've undertaken, which is between 2008 and 2012, so about that mid-point, 2010, we should be around about the 108 figure.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Greenpeace of course says we are close, but because of mathematics you fudge the figures, that Australia has been given a generous definition of land clearing. What do you say to that?

DR KEMP:

There has been absolutely no fudging of the figures whatever. We have to have figures that are credible internationally and these figures are based on very sound science, they are based on the definitions that were settled at Kyoto and later at Marrakesh. There is absolutely no fudging involved at all; the methodology we have used to arrive at these figures has been internationally validated. These are figures which are accepted by the international community and I think increasingly the international community recognises that although we have taken the view that it is not in Australia's national interest to ratify the Kyoto protocol, we are actually at the forefront of nations that are taking the responsible attitude. We have to be a good international citizen. If you look at the task across this century, Barrie, we have got to cut globally greenhouse gas emissions by some 60 per cent if we are going to stabilise greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. That is a very long way to go. Kyoto is not the answer to that. Kyoto is going to achieve about 1 per cent. 75 per cent of the world's emissions are not covered by Kyoto. The US is not in Kyoto, the developing countries are not in and there's no pathway...

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Why we're not in - because being so close, people are asking why don't we sign up anyway?

DR KEMP:

You have to look not just at the 2010 target but also beyond. We have got to have a 20 to 30 year perspective on this and make sure that Australia is well positioned as a country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The fact that virtually none of the countries in our region are going to be in Kyoto means that if we were just to sign up we would be taking on legal obligations that could burden our industry, could have the effect of driving investment offshore into countries which are much less concerned, in many cases, and much less able in a practical sense, to take action to make sure that those industries are conducted in a clean and greenhouse efficient way. That is what we are doing, even with our industries that have high emissions, like the coal industry, like the iron and steel industry.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But that sort of logic does not seem to bother the Europeans. They are happy to sign up and take the disadvantages that go with it.

DR KEMP:

Our position is entirely different to the Europeans because their main competitors are all within the treaty framework and of course they are also hoping to use all that surplus Russian hot air which has come from the collapse of eastern Europe and the economies in eastern Europe to help them reach their targets. We are in a totally different position. We are in a different part of the world. We are surrounded by countries that are not within the Kyoto framework and we could seriously disadvantage our industry and impose heavy costs on our businesses. We could be driving investment offshore at the very time when what we really want to do is to continue a strong and competitive economy while at the same time meeting our international obligations to cut back on greenhouse emissions.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

There is another argument that you are denying them access to these carbon credits. What's wrong with that argument?

DR KEMP:

Well, for a start, there are no carbon credits at the moment. This international system has not even come into existence. Of course, in the end, it is a balance between any benefits that you might see from ratifying Kyoto, as against the costs of ratifying and the costs of ratifying are potentially very high for Australia. Investment decisions are taken over the long-term. They are not taken for next year or the next two or three years, they are taken at a 10 or 20 year time frame. Looking at that sort of time frame, if Australia were to ratify now, companies would say, well, why would you invest in Australia? We could invest in India or Malaysia or Brazil or Argentina and we wouldn't suffer any of the legal commitments, the binding legal commitments, that Australia could be forced to take under Kyoto.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

So are you saying that even in the future there will not be billions of dollars available to Australian industry through this method?

DR KEMP:

We're already attracting, of course, huge investments and huge commitments. We have just had a $25 billion contract settled with China. It is very interesting to think about how that works out in the context of the greenhouse emission reductions because that contract with China is going to involve Australia in increasing its greenhouse emissions by 1.5 million tonnes a year but it is going to reduce China's greenhouse gas emissions by 7 million tonnes. If they had used coal instead of LNG their greenhouse emissions would be much higher so Australia as a great resource country is actually taking on some of the emissions that other countries are now saving. So that is another part of our responsible international attitude. We are making our own industries as clean as we can and that - let me say, Barrie - is a very important thing in the longer term for Australia. We are a country that is heavily reliant and has been traditionally reliant, on cheap fossil fuels. It is very important, as the world becomes less carbon tolerant, that these industries become recognised as much cleaner industries in the future, than they have in the past. That's why we are investing a great deal of money in new technologies, like carbon sequestration, under the ground from power stations, cleaner smelting for steel that will actually help us to clean up these industries and maintain a good internationally competitive position.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

You are going off to the Summit in a week or so and there is a delegation of 50 or so Australians. Senator Bob Brown from the Green movement will not be one of them, why not?

DR KEMP:

It has generally been traditional on these international delegations to include the Opposition and the main Opposition spokesperson, but not to include people from other smaller political parties, so we have got a very large delegation. We have represented a lot of conservation groups and green groups.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But that is the point - it is a large delegation, and you are seriously saying you've put together 50 Australians relevant to the issue of the environment but the leader of the Green movement in the Parliament is not one of them?

DR KEMP:

We feel the views of the conservation groups and the environment groups are well represented on the delegation. This is fully in accord with past precedent under the Labor Party and under us. We are taking an attitude here that Australian opinions need to be well represented and they are well represented on the delegation.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Minister, thank you for your time this morning.

DR KEMP:

Thank you very much, Barrie.

Ends

Commonwealth of Australia