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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Opening address: United States Studies Centre National Summit

Speech
Intercontinental Hotel, Sydney
11 June 2009

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Thank you Geoffrey [Garrett] for that welcome and introduction.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Cadigal people on whose land we meet, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I am honoured to represent the Prime Minister here today to open this summit.

Sustainable globalisation

I congratulate the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and the Harvard University Committee on Australian Studies on not shying away from the big questions - Sustainable Globalisation: will it survive the GFC? which you will consider at this National Summit.

Today's young adults have grown up in an era of economic globalisation.

Since the end of the Cold War two decades ago, as the global flow of trade has more than doubled, the international flow of capital, ideas, technology, services and products, has been for them the norm.

This new age of globalisation has delivered great opportunities - it has created jobs, often jobs in other countries, made goods and services more affordable, literally broadened our social, intellectual and political horizons.

The World Bank estimates that through globalisation nearly 300 million people have escaped extreme poverty.

But this age of global and regional interdependence has also brought great challenges and we know that many millions of others are missing out, or falling behind.

Nearly a decade into the new millennium, the stakes have risen dramatically, with the twin challenges of climate change and the global financial crisis.

Advocates of sustainable globalisation have asked how we can benefit from the opportunities offered by this surge of growth, while at the same time protecting human rights, tackling poverty and preventing the degradation of the environment.

I believe we can and must address these pressing issues simultaneously, and that our two countries, in particular, must - as compassionate global citizens, as good neighbours and as responsible stewards of the domestic economy, environment and society.

In one way, globalisation has given us all a self interest in the welfare of others. For as the global financial crisis has shown, and as dangerous climate change clearly illustrates, we rise and fall together.

The Rudd Government recognises this important linkage, between our interests and those of our neighbours.

In this year's Budget, despite the global financial crisis, we will increase Australia's Overseas Development Assistance to 0.34 per cent of Gross National Income, rising to 0.40 per cent in 2012-13 and 0.5 per cent by 2015-16.

We direct this aid to developing countries and communities adversely affected by the global recession and continuing food insecurity and to supporting longer-term development and capacity building efforts.

These measures will help to support economic growth and stability, particularly for our nearest neighbours.

Climate change

And of course as we move towards Copenhagen, and as we recognise the scale of the challenge, it will be necessary to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.

With the exception of a handful of newspaper columnists, the international community agrees that our climate is changing, that we are largely responsible for that change. It is clear that for the international community, committed to addressing the pervasive climate challenge, its impact on our future is ultimately in our hands.

Around the world, we are literally weathering the storms that climate change exacerbates.

Here in Australia, shell-shocked Victorians are still coming to terms with the loss of whole communities to the worst bushfires in modern history. Under the accepted climate change projections, we can expect those conditions, which prefigured this calamity to occur more frequently.

Communities in northern NSW and south-east Queensland are enduring the sheer grind and toil of daily life after devastating floods and storms.

To Australia's north, some of our regional neighbours are planning for drastic changes.

Indonesia's Minister for Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Vice Admiral Freddy Numberi, told me last month that Indonesia is expecting to lose 24 islands to the impacts of climate change.

These islands are part of the Coral Triangle region - bounded by Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Indonesia - and they have some of the greatest marine biological diversity on the planet - it has been called the 'Amazon of the Seas'

When you consider that 240 million people live within 30 kilometres of the coast and depend on this 'Amazon' for their livelihood, for their food security, for their future, you begin to comprehend the cost of unsustainable development, and better understand the important connectivity message:

US and Australia - our response

The future of the Coral Triangle is just one example of the high stakes that we are confronting together.

From firestorms and water shortages in California to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the United States has also had its share of extreme weather events - catastrophes that scientists fear will be more intense and more frequent.

So it is both exciting and encouraging that Australia and the United States under President Obama have so much common ground on what Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, has called 'this clear and present danger'.

Just as one of our Government's first actions was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in Bali, so President Obama has put climate change at the top of his agenda.

We immediately started work building the three pillars of our climate change response - international action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the development of a carbon pollution reduction scheme, and the nation's largest ever investment in energy efficiency, worth more than $4.5 billion.

And the American voice on the need for climate change action is increasingly being heard.

Global financial crisis

So how does the global economic crisis impact on all this?

Traditionally, economic hard times see a fall in environmental concern as people focus on securing jobs, education and health care for themselves and their families.

Their focus is understandably inwards rather than outwards to the international community. Notions like 'sustainability' can be put on the backburner.

However I firmly believe that this time it is different.

The combination of climate change and economic challenge has convinced nations across the developed world that the business as usual approach cannot deliver lasting solutions, and that we really are bound together.

We have had a global wake-up call that we have been living beyond our means - beyond the productive capacity of our planet.

And this global financial crisis has demanded a new structural approach to how we can best stabilise global financial markets and underpin the recovery of the real global economy.

We must find structures that are flexible enough to deal with a vast new agenda where the interconnections of the issues we must resolve are increasingly apparent.

An agenda in which there is new and increasingly seamless connection between political relations, economic relations, strategic stability, human security, climate change.

Australia's response

In Australia, that means we need to dramatically rethink how we live and do business across all levels of our community.

As we focus on short term stimulus for immediate productivity and jobs, our sights are also on the long-term opportunities for growth - for truly sustainable development.

The guiding principle for the Australian Government, as we build a low-pollution, sustainable economy, is not to trade-off the environment for the economy, but to secure both.

For us, a new era of sustainable development, in a new global economy, involves creating new green-collar jobs in the industries of the future.

This government will grow green jobs, green collar jobs, by building a low pollution economy, by greatly increasing the deployment of energy efficiency to Australian businesses and households.

Again, there is much in common with recent developments in the United States. The Obama administration has also announced that it is looking at expanding retrofitting of commercial buildings, making American homes more energy efficient, and developing better tools to help people find green jobs.

By increasing our renewable energy target to 20 per cent by 2020, the Australian Government expects to see investments of some $20 billion - an enormous area of growth.

Boosting renewable energy will require new jobs and skills, from the tradesman and technical experts who will provide maintenance on the wind turbines and solar panels through to the energy traders and auditors who will set performance indicators for our solar parks and wind farms.

In fact, we've seen estimates from the Climate Institute that 26,000 new jobs will be created in renewable energy projects under a carbon pollution reduction scheme, many of them in rural and regional Australia.

We're also seeing the global financial crisis as an opportunity to invest in projects that embed other forms of sustainability into the economy. We're investing $74.9 million over five years in Australia's incredible historic, Indigenous and natural heritage.

Our heritage places are a major tourism asset. They already generate significant benefits for the community, and through our current round of stimulus investment, these economic and employment benefits will grow, as will our awareness of the rich history of our country.

Resilience

I want to conclude by addressing the important question of resilience, important to natural ecosystems recovering from disruption, and important to economies coping with financial shocks.

One of the acknowledged causes of the global financial crisis was a widespread failure to assess and manage financial risk. This failure to anticipate, and to act early, has meant a high financial cost in the long term. It's a lesson that has urgent application to ecological sustainability, and particularly to climate change.

And it's a lesson that reminds us that the cost of action in the short term, is less than the price of inaction in the long term.

The OECD and the Bank of International Settlements this week suggested we may be seeing a 'glimmer of hope' that the worst of the financial crisis could be behind us.

In Australia, we are already seeing what some are calling the 'green shoots of recovery'.

Now it is up to us all to ensure that those green shoots of recovery are resilient, and that they grow alongside sustainable globalisation.

Out of difficulty and tough times, necessary reforms can and do emerge.

Indeed the very word crisis provides the necessary impetus for an urgent response - to work together - to ensure sustainable globalisation can and will survive the global financial crisis and the prospects for our nations, their citizens and our neighbours are improved for all our efforts.

I wish this important summit well as you deliberate and identify positive solutions to the vitally important question of sustainable globalisation.

Ends

Commonwealth of Australia