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

The World Today - Thursday, 27 January, 2005

Climate change on the agenda at the World Economic Forum

Karen Percy: The Prime Minister, John Howard, will leave later today for the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. The Forum has already been used by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to call for more urgent action on climate change.

Mr Blair has singled out the United States, calling on the Bush administration to cooperate more closely with the rest of the world. The US, like Australia, has refused to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol.

It comes as a new British study on climate change warns that the threat is far more severe than scientists have predicted.

Marie Scoutas: The predicted rise in world temperatures of about two degrees because of steadily increasing carbon dioxide levels is expected to trigger dramatic environmental changes. Now the world's biggest climate modelling exercise, lead by Oxford University, has forecast that figure could be closer to 11 degrees.

A climate modeller from the CSIRO, Doctor Tony Hirst, says the study using 95,000 computers around the world, is a credible one.

Tony Hirst: This is a very good project. Basically it's using the results, using the computing power of the home PCs to do a large, large number of climate model simulations.

Marie Scoutas: But Dr Hirst warns the results may be premature.

Tony Hirst: The authors have only done a small range of tests on their various model versions.

Marie Scoutas: Whatever the case, evidence is building that the effects this century will be severe. It's a warning renewed by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos overnight.

Tony Blair: The impact of climate change predicted by modellers is uncannily coming to pass, as we know from the European summer of 2003. So it may be true to say that the evidence is still disputed. It would be wrong to say that the evidence of danger is not clearly and persuasively advocated by a very large number of entirely independent and compelling voices.

Marie Scoutas: Mr Blair has vowed to use his leadership this year of the European Union and the G8 to break down international divisions on how to fight climate change. In Davos he singled out the United States.

Tony Blair: If America wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set, it must be part of their agenda, too.

Marie Scoutas: The United States, along with Australia, remains firm in its opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. But the Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, says Mr Blair's criticisms of the Bush administration is unwarranted.

Ian Campbell: I disagree with him to the extent that I think America is closely engaged. Clearly, they haven't signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, and nor have Australia, we understand their reasons.

I don't think it's fair to say that the Americans are anything other than quite focussed, particularly on the technology, and it is technology… I mean the technologies exist to solve this problem, it's a matter of putting in the economic mechanisms to deliver that technology at the best price.

And this is the dilemma, it's a massive policy challenge for the world, and it's good to see the British Prime Minister is using his leadership of the G8 to progress people's understanding of the issues.

Marie Scoutas: The Prime Minister John Howard leaves for Davos later today. Will the issue of climate change be on his agenda?

Ian Campbell: Well, I've had nothing but very strong support from the Prime Minister on my work on climate change in the short time I've been Environment Minister. We're seeking, as a government, to stay on the front foot, make sure that we build public understanding of the issues.

There's been a lot of hype and emotion around global warming and climate change, extreme positions on either side, either saying that the world's going to come to an end and there's going to be a sort of day after tomorrow calamity, and then on the other side people saying that there's no such thing, it's all rubbish.

Marie Scoutas: While Australia, and indeed the United States, remain opposed to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, will anything change, do you think, post Februarythe 16th, when the agreement will come into effect?

Ian Campbell: Well, I think the good thing is that this sort of, you know, banal argument about whether we're going to sign or not will be behind us. The rest of the world is focussing on what we do post-Kyoto.

I think the passing of February and the coming into force of the Protocol will be positive, we'll actually move forward, we'll move on and we'll say, well what are the real things we have to do to achieve success in this enormous policy battle?

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