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

12 January 2006

AP6 Partnership meeting to help fight global climate change - Opinion piece by Senator Ian Campbell


The real challenge in the fight against global climate change is how to continue to grow the world's economy while we dramatically cut the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere.

It is a challenge that cannot be underestimated. Only with a strong global economy will we ever be able to lift developing countries out of poverty.

To highlight the size of the task, the International Energy Agency predicts that the world will need another 7800 new power stations in the next 30 years - power that is needed for hospitals, health care, schools and communication and a host of other necessities.

So how do we meet this demand and still achieve the deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that scientific evidence tells us are needed to stop the effects of climate change?

The unanimous agreement reached at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal in December reflects a growing sense of urgency about the challenges presented by climate change. In Montreal, 189 nations agreed that the world must begin a new dialogue about long-term cooperative action on this unprecedented environmental problem.

Australia - as a key negotiator at the Montreal meeting - played an important role in forging this new international collaboration.

Agreement between key nations is crucial if we are to make real progress on climate change. A tonne of greenhouse gas emissions causes the same amount of damage whether it is produced in China, India, the US or Australia.

That is why the inaugural meeting of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6) - to be held in Sydney this week - is such an important development.

The Partnership brings together the rapidly developing economies of China and India - who are not bound by targets under the Kyoto Protocol - along with South Korea, Japan, the US and Australia.

These six countries account for roughly half of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. In comparison, Kyoto covers 32 per cent of the world's emissions.

It is therefore vital to engage these countries in a partnership that aims to explore new technological solutions to address climate change.

The focus of the partnership will be to advance research, and to develop and deploy the breakthrough technologies the world will need to make the deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions. This objective was a key focus of last year's climate change discussions at the G8 Summit.

While the AP6 is in its early stages, there is the potential for great advances. Each country will be represented at the senior cabinet level at the meeting to discuss how we can achieve the necessary breakthroughs in zero-emissions technology and find new ways to engage the private sector.

The Australian Government is well-regarded internationally for its action on climate change. Despite the fact Australia is a relatively small producer of greenhouse gases, with just 1.46 per cent of global emissions, we are investing considerable money, time, resources and energy. Backed by a $1.8 billion investment, Australia is on track to meet its target set under Kyoto. In contrast, many countries that have signed up to Kyoto will not meet their targets when the agreement expires in 2012.

The global climate challenge will involve extraordinary, multi-trillion dollar public and private sector investment in the energy sector, and significant funding in research and development into low emission technologies, their commercialisation and deployment.

The AP6 partners cover most of the world's manufacturing capacity for electrical appliances, from lightbulbs to air-conditioners and televisions. Energy efficiency improvements of these appliances made by AP6 partner countries can drive rapid global improvements in energy efficiency - improvements which will reduce energy demand and costs, and associated greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Each AP6 country will have different comparative advantages and varying views on a way forward. We should welcome this - in fact, we need to embrace each and every way forward. We need the best technology to deliver the best climate change result.

It is irrelevant whether these technologies involve energy from renewable sources such as wind, water, the sun or hot rocks or from traditional fossil fuels such as coal - the atmosphere doesn't care as long as we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The reality is that world will need energy from both renewable and traditional sources for the foreseeable future.

The AP6 is a model of cooperation and practical action - involving both developed and developing countries as equal partners - that will play a major role in helping the world find a solution to human-induced climate change.

See also:

Commonwealth of Australia