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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp

4 December 2003

Australian Action at International Climate Change Forum

Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, will lead an Australian delegation to the Ninth Meeting of Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Convention (COP9) being held in Milan, Italy.

Australia is one of 188 Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention, the ultimate objective of which is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to prevent dangerous climate change.

Parties are meeting in Milan from 1 to 12 December to assess international progress in addressing climate change and to set the agenda for the coming year.

Dr Kemp will participate in high-level segments at three key roundtable discussions, beginning on 10 December, covering issues such as climate change and sustainable development, technology, and progress and future action at the national, regional and international levels.

"Australia is fully engaged in the international climate change effort and is committed to finding effective ways to tackle this important global issue," Dr Kemp said.

"Australia's main objectives for COP9 include:

"Australia will also continue to be part of the international effort to develop long-term solutions to climate change through sharing its policy, technological and scientific expertise.

"Under the banner of 'Climate Change Innovation', the Australian Government and industry will be working in partnership at COP9 to promote the cutting-edge technologies and services offered by Australia's sustainable energy industries.

"I will also be releasing a comprehensive compilation of the most recent global and regional climate science, with a strong focus on Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, to help advance understanding and informed discussion of this highly complex issue."

Dr Kemp said that climate change was a serious and long-term challenge requiring an effective global partnership.

"The Australian Government has invested nearly $1 billion in a comprehensive domestic climate change program, we are committed to our Kyoto target on emissions of greenhouse gases, and we are developing a national climate change forward strategy that will help position Australia as a strong, competitive economy with a lower greenhouse signature," he said.


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change lays the basis for global action "to protect the climate system for present and future generations". Negotiated between 1990 and 1992, the UNFCCC was adopted in May 1992 and opened for signatures a month later at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Australia ratified the Convention in December 1992 - one of the first countries to do so. The Convention entered into force in 1994 after a requisite 50 countries had ratified it. There are now 188 Parties to the UNFCCC - almost all of the members of the United Nations. Parties to the Convention have agreed to work towards achieving the Convention's ultimate aim of stabilising "greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system".

Under UNFCCC obligations Australia has submitted on a yearly basis the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory and the Third National Communication on Climate Change on 15 August 2002. In October 2001 the Bureau of Meteorology submitted a detailed national report on Australia's systematic observation of climate - Australia's Global Climate Observing System .

Decisions under the UNFCCC are made on the basis of consensus according to current operating rules. The main negotiating forum is sessions of the Conference of the Parties (COP). The Australian delegation at COP sessions is usually led by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, and includes representatives of several government departments, industry and non-government organisations.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty designed to limit global greenhouse gas emissions. Many Parties to the UNFCCC, including Australia, have signed the Protocol since negotiations were concluded at the third session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 3). Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol lists emissions target commitments for developed countries. At COP 3 Australia accepted a target of 108 per cent of 1990 emissions averaged over the period 2008-2012, and is within striking distance of this target.

The rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol have been developed since COP 3, with negotiation concluded at COP 7 in Marrakesh, November 2001. To enter into force the Protocol must be ratified by at least 55 countries, including countries that account for at least 55 per cent of the total 1990 carbon dioxide emissions of developed countries listed in Annex I to the UNFCCC.

Whilst committed to its Kyoto target the Australian Government has decided not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol at this time because it is not in Australia's interests to do so:

Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol should not be seen as the test of a country's commitment to effective action. Real action to reduce emissions such as Australia is undertaking, should be the benchmark.

Further information:

Commonwealth of Australia