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Australia to lead the world: Global Initiative on Forests and Climate

Launch video and transcript
The Hon. John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia
The Hon. Alexander Downer MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources
Parliament House, Canberra
Thursday, 29 March 2007

WMV video file


The Hon. John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia:

Well ladies and gentlemen I’m here with Mr. Downer and Mr. Turnbull to announce a two hundred million dollar global initiative on forests and climate change.

Every year about twenty per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from the destruction of the world's forests. That is second only to the burning of fossil fuels, and more than all of the world's emissions from transport - more than all of the world's emissions from transport. Every year thirteen million hectares of forests, that's an area twice the size of Tasmania, are cleared and yet this issue is not addressed in the Kyoto Protocol.

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources:

The impact can be very near term. Of course from the very moment reforestation begins, carbon sequestration begins so the great thing about this initiative is that this is our best chance to give the world a breathing space. The forests of the world are the lungs of the world. This is the opportunity, right now, to breathe new life into the lungs of the world, this is how we can address carbon levels in the atmosphere immediately. We don't need to wait for new technology, we can do it now and it will give the world the breathing space that it needs.

We all know that the science is telling us that in the decades ahead, for the rest of this century, it is highly likely that our climate, particularly in southern Australia, will become hotter and drier. So it follows therefore that there will be more likely to have droughts than we've had in the past, we're likely to have less water availability. That is the single most significant consequence of this climate change to southern Australia.

Now that is why we have moved, the Prime Minister has moved with a National Plan for Water Security, to take charge of our larger system of rivers and groundwater systems, the Murray Darling Basin, to invest ten billion dollars into ensuring we get the right balance between agriculture and the environment, into ensuring that our irrigated agriculture is the most efficient in the world and is resilient and sustainable and able to deal with climate change.

The important thing to bear in mind too, is that these changes are going to happen anyway. What we do today to lower greenhouse gas emissions will not have an impact for many decades so much of this change is already built into the system, there’s a lot of inertia in the system, so we have to adapt to climate change, and we are doing that, in a way with respect to water that no other country in the world is doing.

The Hon. Alexander Downer MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs:

When I’ve discussed this idea with the Germans, in particular the German Development Cooperation Minister, also with the British, they have been extremely positive about it. Likewise with New Zealand and the Americans, so I’d have to say to you that regardless of people’s attitude to the Kyoto Protocol, the sense I have from the Governments we’ve discussed this with is that they are very enthusiastic and positive about the idea.

Commonwealth of Australia