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Transcript
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

Interview with Paul Murray, 6PR Perth

Tuesday, 26 July 2005

Climate Change Adaptation Report


E&OE...

Announcer:
We move on from terrorism to what many people think is more of a threat and that's climate change, Ian Campbell, the Federal Environment Minister, today is releasing a new report on climate change, it's all about our risk and vulnerability to it ... G'day Ian.

Senator Campbell:
Morning Paul.

Announcer:
Ian, I actually received a report this week from one of our leading resource companies here obviously in the coal industry calling into question that the greenhouse effect does exist and is responsible for climate change.

Senator Campbell:
What the report does in a very low key and sensible approach is outline that it is highly likely to be a reality, it's saying that for example with South West Western Australia, we've seen rainfall reductions there on the record, we've seen increases in the variability that is storms and droughts, these are becoming more constant. I think it takes a pretty brave or stupid person to say that if you pump thousands and thousands of tonnes of carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for fifty years it won't have an effect.

The consensus of scientists around the world, many conservative scientists, I think mostly these scientists are independent; they don't have a political wagon to push - the reality is that climate change is being recorded. I think what you can argue over are projections, a lot of the projections coming under the microscope of so-called sceptics. I think it's fair to criticise that because Australians and people around the world are already changing their behaviour because they are concerned about climate change.

We've got companies like the Swan Brewery here who have signed up to the Australian Government's Greenhouse Challenge, they've gone through their operations and found how they can maintain their output at current levels but reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 10 per cent and that's just one example that most West Aussies would understand. We've got companies across the state like Alcoa here who are increasing their output but reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, so we are changing... companies across the world are changing. We're producing more as a world and emitting less as a proportion of that production.

Sensible people will realise that it's a serious risk to us, that's what this report is all about. It's saying if this keeps going the way it's going, there are vulnerabilities. In South-West Australia, which is closest to most of our hearts, it's likely that rainfall will continue to decrease, it's likely you will get more variability in our weather, and what we're saying as a government is let's call a spade a spade, let's bell the cat, let's face up to the reality. Even if we stopped all the greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere, if we closed down Australia, closed down China, closed down America, closed down India, if we did that tomorrow there would still be enough greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - an unnatural level that will change the climate regardless of what we do in the next few years.

Announcer:
You've put out in connection with your statement today a list of all the expenditures that the Federal Government's going through in terms of climate change these days, a lot of it is obviously money that is available to industries to help them make the switch. The Premier this morning, Geoff Gallop has announced a $180 million dollar wind farm up at Emu Downs near Cervantes, we know that is linked with the desalination Plant in Kwinana, does that $180 million dollar expenditure attract a Federal Government subsidy?

Senator Campbell:
I'd have to look into the detail Paul; we do a lot of collaborative work with the Western Australian government through a thing called the Remote Renewable Energy power Programme where we're replacing diesel generation with wind power. Where wind power works really well is when it's away from the grid, it doesn't work that well when it's replacing base load power. That's why I'm a little bit sceptical.....

Announcer:
Well that's what this is meant to do, because it is meant to tap into the grid and be an offset to the amount of power the desalination plant will use.

Senator Campbell:
Well I think that would work, I was thinking about that as I heard the news as I was running the kids to school this morning, but I was thinking about this, I think it would work if the desalination plant was only connected to the wind power, so basically you're only creating desalinated water while the wind is blowing.... in a way, it's sort of what they're doing at Rottnest Island. A lot of your listeners would have seen the windmill over there that the Commonwealth paid half the money to build that, that's quite a good example of wind power working that will reduce the amount of dieseline that's burnt at Rottnest, by about 500,000 litres a year.

The great thing is that at night, if when the wind's blowing and you don't actually need the power, because hopefully everyone's sleeping over there, that they use that power to create desalinated water. I do not know what Dr Gallop's proposal is, if it's to only link the wind power to the desalination plant and only desalinate when the wind's blowing then it's probably quite efficient. I'd be a little bit surprised if that's the case.

Announcer:
It makes it strange to be building it right next door to the Kwinana power station if that was the case.

Senator Campbell:
Well that's what makes it seem strange to me. I think the great thing about the report I'm releasing today and the more we understand these issues, the more we talk about them sensibly. When people can really understand that wind has its place and solar has its place, that's why we're putting $75 million dollars into the solar cities programme. But you still need base load; you do need that fundamental power supply for your industry. When everyone wakes up on a hot summer's morning in Perth and all flick on their air conditioners at the same time, you need that base load power station.

The trick for Australia, because we've got so much coal is to work within Australia with scientists to say how we capture the carbon how do we capture the greenhouse gas emissions from the coal, either bury them under the ground, under the ocean of re-use it. Basically we have a combined cycle going so you're not wasting any energy and you're not pumping any carbon into the atmosphere. How do you use coal in a clean way, that's one of the things we need to do. I make the point to people who sort of focus on Australia, we're 1.5 per cent of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions, we are a tiny country, population-wise, but massive in terms of energy and energy exports.

You could close down Australia tonight and in less than ten months China's expansion of their energy production will totally replace the greenhouse gas emissions that come out of the whole of Australia. The big challenge internationally is to develop these technologies like clean coal, efficient renewables such as solar and wind and to get them into places such as China and India. This is I think the most important role Australia can play. Be at the forefront of the science of cleaning up coal, capturing carbon and stop it going into the atmosphere, but far more importantly being able to be at the forefront of exporting that sort of technology into China and India who are really geographically and trade-wise very close to Australia.

Announcer:
On that capturing carbon, I mean....that's cleaning coal..... underground, I think its called carbon sequestration....

Senator Campbell:
That's why I never use the term Paul, no one understands it.

Announcer:
I understand that there are companies here in Australia trying to pursue that with the state government and can't get off the ground.

Senator Campbell:
I'm familiar with a number of Western Australian and Australian companies that are at the world's forefront and sadly all of them struggle to work with governments in Australia. We've got a company based in my building that's currently doing bidding for a project from a shortlist of two major projects for a methane capture and development project in Great Britain at the moment. I think the way forward for Australia is for the states to match those sorts of funds.

You've seen that list of projects that we've put up, there's a half billion dollar fund called the Low Emissions Technology Fund. The Victorian State Labor Government, to their great credit, have now set up a matching fund. I think one terrific step to take the politics out of this and get some real work done is for each of the state governments to set up a low emissions technology type fund that would be suitable. You could just imagine here in Western Australia where we do have good quality coal supplies, that if you could get West Australian industry working on technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our existing natural resources combining gas and coal is one of the world's leading hopes.

The gasification of coal is one of the great technologies in that it is very helpful in reducing emissions, so there's huge potential here in Western Australia, I hope that for the sake of Western Australia that the Premier's proposal to wind-power the desalination plant is in fact a sufficient one and that its not a little bit of political smoke and mirrors. I really hope that for Western Australia's sake, because getting desalination linked to renewable energy is a terrific opportunity. I think this report underscores the need for WA to have very long-term visionary projects to supply our water needs.

Announcer:
We might ask that very question of the water authority today whether or not it will only produce water, when the wind's blowing up near Cervantes.

Senator Campbell:
That's the secret Paul, because if it's not, you're going to have to have more base load capacity to power it when the wind's not blowing.

Announcer:
Thanks Ian.

Senator Campbell:
Thanks Paul.

Announcer:
Ian Campbell, Environment Minister outlining this new report out today on climate change.

Ends.....

Commonwealth of Australia