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

AM - Monday, 9 October 2006

Minister defends climate change aid program

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Minister for Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, says the Government is taking measures to help its neighbours.

Do you agree that some of Australia's neighbours face a very bleak outlook as a result of global warming?

IAN CAMPBELL: I don't think there's any doubt that the impacts of global warming will have major impacts right around the world. And I think the crux of the report, which says that these are very small economies, many of them lying low in the sea, will be impacted, possibly ahead of some of the larger countries with, you know, that are higher out of the water, quite frankly.

TONY EASTLEY: So you agree with Reverend Tim Costello when he talks about environmental refugees?

IAN CAMPBELL: We've had refugees coming, or we've had people coming out of the Pacific for a long time. The major impacts, the long-term impacts of climate change will take many decades to unfold.

I think the short-term impacts of, for example, storm surges and potential increases in cyclonic activity, are issues that we need to address as a world. And I think Australia and the developed countries do have a substantial role to play in helping smaller, less developed countries adapt to the already built-in climate change that's already built into the atmosphere, because we have pumped a trillion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere already in the last 150 years.

TONY EASTLEY: Am I right in saying, though, that in the next 50 years or so we can expect to receive some of these environmental refugees from some of the Pacific Islands?

IAN CAMPBELL: Having spent a lot of time in the Pacific generally on whaling-related issues, I've got no doubt that the Pacific Island nations would like to see us work with them on adaptation measures. They would much prefer to stay on their own islands, and I think that is where the focus should be.

TONY EASTLEY: Do you agree with Reverend Costello when he says the Federal Government is treating the problem as a political one and not one based on an environmental reality?

IAN CAMPBELL: Ah no, I think he's very wrong there. The Australian Government is spending billions of dollars on practical actions to firstly address climate change in our domestic programs, but is also working very actively internationally to make sure we have a comprehensive and effective international solution.

We've got to remember Australia is less than one-and-a-half per cent of the world's emissions, but Australia, like our Pacific neighbours, will reap many of the impacts of the climate change that's already built into the system.

So we do, as Tim Costello has said, have an enlightened self-interest in getting an effective international response, making sure that the world reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, and that Australia plays a constructive part in that.

TONY EASTLEY: The Minister for Environment, Senator Ian Campbell.

Commonwealth of Australia