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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Wednesday, 16 February, 2005
Environmentalists will be hoping the globe becomes a little greener from today as the Kyoto Protocol comes into effect.
Australia is likely to be singled out as an environmental vandal because it along with the United States remains one of the few major industrialised countries refusing to ratify the agreement on climate change. Kyoto aims to slow global warming by limiting greenhouse gas emissions and introducing an international carbon trading scheme.
The US produces about a quarter of all the worlds greenhouse emissions and Australia generates the most per capita in the industrialised world. More than 30 developed nations worldwide will come together today to wind back their emissions to below 1990 levels by 2012.
It will provide for a 5% reduction in international greenhouse gas submissions from industrialised countries and quite clearly we need far greater reductions than that. But it gets all the countries together except for Australia, United States, Monaco and Lichtenstein. It gets them around the table and I'm sure that post 2012, we need to work on a much greater reduction in emissions, but after all this is a very significant day for the environment.
Environment Minister, Ian Campbell joins us now from our Canberra studio. Minister what do make of Ian Macfarlane, the industry minister questioning whether human activity is contributing to climate change?
There's a well informed debate going on around the world about the level of contribution of human activity to climate change. Ian's right to the extent that climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon. The climate has changed throughout the history of the planet and it will continue to change regardless of what humans do. But there's a growing consensus which the government recognises, that human activity is likely to be a cause of global warming and that's why both Ian Macfarlanes department and mine have worked together on about $1.8 billion worth of programmes address climate change.
But questioning it really, there can't be that much question involved that human activity is causing climate change.
Well the consensus of the science is saying that there is a strong likelihood that human activity over the post industrial period over the last 50 years has made a contribution. But there's a lot of very serious scientists who still doubt it. So it's a legitimately debate to try to figure out what human activity has done to the climate and importantly how we address it and Ian Macfarlane's department and mine, the Australian Government on behalf of Australian taxpayers is investing about $1.8 billion over the coming years to see for example that as we burn coal we do so more efficiently producing more energy but for less greenhouse emissions looking at how you can pump carbon back underground, try to move towards solar technologies more stridently. We are trying through the Solar Cities Programme to set up entire communities based entirely on solar energy then pumping that energy back into the gridzone. We've got a lot of very practical sensible programmes that have seen Australia lead the world in many of these areas.
We are one of only four countries that's likely to meet our Kyoto target. So we are doing well, I think today is a day when Australians should be proud about what we've done to date and also optimistic about what we can do in the future rather than as the Labor Party would have them, seek to be negative about what we are doing and also scared about the future. It's a day for optimism and hope, not a day for being negative.
Minister, if it's a day that we should be proud of reaching our Kyoto targets, why won't we sign the Kyoto Protocol.
Well what we need to address climate change is investment in technologies that will in fact reduce the emissions but also expand our economy. We want job security but also sustainability in the environment and the Kyoto Protocol has the potential to drive investment offshore.
We are on track to reach our target, but the last thing any Australian would want is to drive energy efficient businesses off Australian shores to developing countries who have no targets and therefore see emissions in the globe go up but industry leave Australia. So that is the simple reason that we won't sign Kyoto. The other reason is that the Kyoto Protocol will in fact see about a 30% rise in global emissions during the term from when it comes into effect that is from today through to 2012.
Global emissions over the Kyoto Protocol period will in fact increase by 30%, so it's ineffective environmentally and bad economically. We need to do better as a world and Australia will be seeking to lead the world and be a constructive player in negotiations that get us to some more comprehensive and outcomes orientated post Kyoto arrangement.
So your contention is that the Kyoto Protocol is ineffective?
Quite frankly, it's a dud. But this is such an important issue that we do need a much better framework, post-Kyoto and the great thing about today is we can start working towards that without getting preoccupied about whether we put our signature on it or not.
Australians should be proud that the nation is one of four countries that are likely to meet their target through domestic action. Also we should be hopeful about the future because the programmes we have in place should see Australia reduce its emissions by about 30% in the next 45 years, so we will be a leading nation in the fight against climate change, not a nation that involves itself in stunts and emblems.
Minister, it seems strange that you should say that we should be proud of meeting targets on something that you refer to as a "dud".
Well, we have always committed ourselves to sound domestic policies that reduce emissions. That's what we've committed ourselves to. A number of other countries have also committed themselves. About 55 developed countries have signed up to targets under Kyoto and on current trends, 51 of those nations won't achieve their self imposed greenhouse gas emissions targets. Australia along with Great Britain and Sweden and New Zealand will in fact most likely meet their targets. So this is a target we've impose upon ourselves. We believe that we can do better in fact we think we can achieve 30% reductions by the year 2050.
The world needs to achieve 50% reductions during this century so Australia is in fact showing the rest of the world how you can grow the economy but reduce greenhouse gas emissions so Australians should be proud. They should be hopeful about the future not negative as the Labor party and the Greens would have them be.