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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Australian Electrical & Electronic Manufacturer's Association
Cleaner Greener Smarter Conference, Sydney
3 September 2003
Check against delivery
It is a pleasure to be here this morning to open this Cleaner, Greener, Smarter conference on the built environment. I congratulate A-double E - M - A and the Australian Construction Industry Forum for their initiative in putting together this event.
The environment has moved to the very centre of the Howard Government's policy process - the Prime Minister himself chairs the Sustainable Environment Committee of Cabinet, which ensures that Australia's sustainability gets its due consideration in decision-making.
Australia faces sustainability challenges on many fronts - our rivers are stressed, our water supplies are parlous, our biodiversity is threatened and the growth of our cities keeps pressure on air quality - though our continuing push for cleaner fuels has seen an improvement on that front. The environment is not a free good. Our resources are not infinite.
While there are many different environmental concerns in cities, regions, states and nations, the issue of climate change is one for all of us.
The evidence is that the world is warming and that human action in the production of greenhouse gases is a factor in that warming. Australia needs to respond to the consequences of climate change, and to the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is new evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.
In July, the World Meteorological Organisation stated that as global temperatures continue to warm due to climate change, the number and intensity of extreme weather events can be expected to increase.
In 2002 there were record high and low temperatures, and record storms, in different parts of the world.
In June 2002, southern France experienced 40 degree plus temperatures, five to seven degrees above the average; Geneva recorded its hottest June on record.
In May, the United States experienced a record of 562 tornadoes in a month. The previous record was 399 in June 1992.
In India, the pre-monsoon heatwave brought peak temperatures of 45 degrees leading to the deaths of at least 1400 people.
Australian data shows that there are measurable long-term trends in our climate, both nationally and regionally. Australia-wide temperature records show a warming of about 0.7°C since 1910.
The warmest year on record was 1998. 2002 was the fifth warmest year on record. Since 1910, South-west Western Australia has become 25per cent drier in winter, with annual rainfall well down.
The Bureau of Meteorology has concluded that the more severe impact of the current drought arises from the relatively higher temperatures during 2002 compared with earlier droughts such as those of 1982 and 1994.
Their figures show temperatures during 2002 were 1.22°C higher than the long-term average, compared with the previous record of 0.91°C.
This illustrates that even very slight increases in temperature can put great pressure on our communities and producers, our ecosystems and species.
Australia needs to deal with the issue of climate change both domestically and internationally.
The Climate Change Forward Strategy will focus on meeting the target that was agreed at Kyoto, while positioning Australia for the longer term response to climate change, within a strong and competitive economy.
Internationally, we need to work to put in place a global framework that includes all major emitters, and to bring about the greenhouse reductions necessary to restrain climate change.
Kyoto, as yet, does not offer this, because the Protocol does not include the United States, the world's biggest emitter, nor developing countries, which will be the biggest emitters within a decade. Nor does it provide a pathway for these developing countries to accept emissions targets.
Australia has a dual economic exposure to climate change.
On the one hand, parts of our economy are highly dependant on ecosystems and natural resources that are vulnerable to climate change.
On the other, important parts of our economy, particularly our energy-intensive industries that can today compete on world markets could be exposed as we move to a lower greenhouse signature.
We need to carefully manage both sides of this exposure to satisfy our objectives of sustaining our environment and continuing economic growth.
The Howard government has committed nearly $1billion to provide incentives for industry and communities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and to encourage the development of low emission technologies.
The measures we have put in place will already produce a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of some 60 million tones CO2-e a year by 2010 - equivalent to taking all Australia's cars off the road.
This is only a beginning.
Australia's population is forecast to increase to a likely 23 million by 2021, equivalent to creating one extra city the size of Sydney, with its attendant demands on resources, infrastructure and services.
End-use consumption of energy by the residential sector has increased by 60% since 1975 (versus a 35% increase in population). In 2000 electricity consumption in Australia was 181,000 GWh. The Electricity Supply Association has predicted on a business as usual case that in 2020, we will need some 340,000 GWh. Business will consume 72% of that. Is it any wonder that the ESAA has called for energy ratings systems and a major effort to rein in consumption.
The Howard Government believes it is vital that we work with industry to meet the challenges presented by this growth and its contribution to climate change.
We recognize that AEEMA's 400 infrastructure providers in the communications, electrical and electronic industries and ACIF's 500,000 individual members in building, construction and property will be at the forefront in improving the energy and environmental performance of our built environment.
Your conference flier poses some interesting questions - Are environmental protection and economic growth incompatible? In many circumstances, our economic growth will depend on our ability to protect the quality of our vast natural resources. The key to doubling agricultural production in the Murray-Darling Basin is effectively combating salinity and using water wisely. What would it do to our tourism industry if the GBR, our rainforests and our mega-diversity were destroyed? There is increasing consideration of the triple bottom line in investment strategies, with some investors believing that the environmental and social aspects are better indicators over the longer term. We see a multi-national such as BP and a major energy supplier such as Origin both developing competitive advantage with cleaner, greener products.
Is it possible to deliver an environmentally friendly building without going broke?
Demand for environmentally friendly products is on the rise, fuelled by a greater public interest in sustainability issues. Many of you would know that first-hand, and incorporation of design features that may have been uneconomic a couple of years back may well be within the budget today. That demand will continue to increase, driven both by the better understanding of consumers as well as the development of valuable and cost-effective new products.
Is government policy a help or hindrance? I will await the conclusions of your conference on this question with interest. Certainly we want to see a constructive partnership between government and industry on sustainability issues, and I have found as Minister that there is a great interest in industry in working with government to address impediments to sustainability, and see a sustainability strategy put in place.
A crucial part of that strategy is the development of a National Framework for Energy Efficiency.
This national framework will help target and coordinate energy efficient policies and programs across all jurisdictions to ensure that any duplication is minimized and that consumers receive a consistent message.
I can tell you today that there has been significant progress in the government's agenda for a cleaner, greener, smarter built environment.
In January this year, amendments to the Building Code of Australia introduced mandatory energy performance standards for all new houses, that will require advanced design concepts and products for some 100,000 new houses built each year.
Work is continuing for further amendments to the Building Code of Australia to progressively introduce mandatory energy efficiency standards for commercial and public buildings.
Later this year, energy performance standards for apartment buildings, hotels, motels and hospitals (code Class 2, 3 and 4 residential buildings) will be released for public consultation with a view to having these standards introduced into building law in 2004.
Also this year, a landmark discussion paper on Building Code of Australia stringency standards for energy efficiency in office buildings (Code class 5 buildings) will be issued.
While the BCA will define minimum regulatory requirements, the Australian Greenhouse Office and the Department of the Environment and Heritage are working with SEDA, other state environmental agencies and the building industry on programs to encourage voluntary best-practice in energy efficiency and environmental performance
The Howard Government supports the development of voluntary 'star-rating' systems to guide the property sector - investors, building owners, managers and tenants - in measuring the overall environmental performance of buildings.
The Department of the Environment and Heritage has developed NABERS, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System, for assessing the environmental performance of existing buildings.
NABERS measures impacts in key environmental categories. These include energy use and greenhouse emissions, indoor air quality, waste, toxic materials, water use, stormwater run-off and pollution, landscape diversity, transport, occupant satisfaction and ozone depleting substances and the global warming potential of refrigerants.
NABERS can be used as a complementary tool with other rating systems that focus on building design. These include the Green Building Council's new GREEN STAR environmental rating system, which aims to help improve building design for energy and water efficiency, indoor environment quality, waste avoidance and resource conservation in new and refurbished offices.
The Howard Government is leading by example in reducing the environmental impacts of its own operations. Overall, government agencies have met the energy efficiency targets that were set in 2000 for tenant light and power and central services in offices.
This has been achieved by agencies requiring more energy efficient designs and equipment for new buildings, refurbishments and tenancies. The government is considering refinements to this policy as part of the National Framework for Energy Efficiency, to continue to lead improvements in the energy performance of the building sector.
Apart from safeguarding the quality of life for all Australians, a cleaner, greener, smarter future provides excellent opportunities for Australian industry to develop new building products and services with leading edge technologies and world-class expertise.
My department looks forward to progressing its work with AEEMA for ongoing programs including:
For ACIF and its members, the challenges ahead will be to produce buildings for the new millennium - energy ratings of 5-stars or even 5-stars plus, water efficient, low air toxicity and minimum waste - with high levels of occupant comfort and satisfaction.
Today, advanced design and the high quality construction of buildings and equipment can deliver buildings that operate more efficiently and use fewer resources than most older buildings. AEEMA and ACIF members can help change the built environment and make these efficient sustainable buildings the norm rather than the exception.
I commend the Australian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association and the Australian Construction Industry Forum for arranging this very significant third annual debate on the environmental issues affecting the commercial and domestic building industries.
I have much pleasure in declaring the conference open.