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Speech by Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Mininster for the Environment
Ladies and Gentleman.
It seems just yesterday that some of us were together in Melbourne for the signing of the first Agreements under the Greenhouse Challenge. In reality, it was three months ago. Yet, as I reflect, important developments have taken place on the climate change front during the interim.
Most immediately, it is with great pleasure that I join you today for the signing of the second group of Agreements under the Greenhouse Challenge. It is a significant achievement that we now have new Agreements with thirteen companies and two major industry associations.
The actions being taken by these enterprises will make a significant contribution to abating emissions of greenhouse gases. The agreements will form a foundation on which these companies can build - through the periodic review of progress, enhancement of the effectiveness of actions implemented and the adoption of an increased range of measures. I welcome you all as partners in this venture.
In mid July, I led the Australian delegation to the Second Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Geneva. The meeting marked an important stage in negotiations to achieve agreement for international action in the post-2000 period. Negotiations will now intensify in order to ensure a successful outcome at the third Conference of the Parties at Kyoto in December 1997.
The meeting produced a key outcome in the form of a Ministerial Declaration which:
We registered Australia's recognition of the importance of the findings of this Report and the powerful messages it contains on the need for effective international action.
Australia reaffirmed its commitment to the Convention, and the Berlin Mandate process.
The Ministerial Declaration also included a reference to legally binding targets. Contrary to some media reports, Australia contributed to, and supported, all but this last feature of the Ministerial Declaration.
We could not associate ourselves with an open ended commitment on the implications of legally binding targets in advance of knowing what they were and how they would be structured.
At Geneva, Australia pursued an approach to the question of emissions targets which would lead to an outcome which is both fair and achievable.
We proposed that commitments should be differentiated to reflect countries' differing national circumstances. Such an approach would enable environmental outcomes to be achieved more effectively and more equitably.
We did achieve some real gains at Geneva, particularly in relation to the principle of differentiation. Countries expressed a readiness to engage on the concept of differentiation which is now established as a key negotiating issue. To build on this progress, Australia will bring forward ideas for further development of differentiation for the next negotiating session in December.
The challenge that now confronts us is to produce an outcome which will accommodate our particular economic and trade circumstances, while contributing effectively to the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in a global sense.
The Geneva Conference brought home strongly the importance of Australia being able to demonstrate effective domestic action on greenhouse emissions. We need to show that we are delivering practical options for emissions abatement if our credibility in international negotiations is to remain strong.
You are contributing to the domestic response and it is critically important. It is particularly so, if you prefer the voluntary path - which is our preference.
Key priorities for the Commonwealth in the immediate future include:
We must, however, all work together if a solid national performance is to be achieved - governments, business and the wider community all have a contribution to make.
In the case of industry , business and commerce, we can only deliver an effective national response in tackling greenhouse gas emissions if we have your full involvement and support.
The Greenhouse Challenge - with its objective of capturing companies willingness and ability to deliver maximum practicable abatement of emissions is a primary vehicle for this. Furthermore, more efficient use of energy is good economics as well as good for the environment.
I am encouraged by the increasing tempo of this program and its extended coverage of industry sectors.
I look forward to a continuing engagement with the Greenhouse Challenge and I hope that all companies will give serious consideration to joining in this cooperative partnership with the Government.