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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
26 September 1997
New figures have highlighted the difficulties and potential dramatic costs facing Australia in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Environment Minister Robert Hill has announced that Australia's net greenhouse gas emissions in 1995 totalled 402 million tonnes, measured as carbon dioxide equivalent, a 6 per cent increase from 1990.
Senator Hill says the figure dispels any suggestion that a 'quick fix' to the greenhouse gas problem can be found in uniform reduction targets.
"The six per cent increase in net emissions came at a time when Australian industry was moving out of recession. The economy was growing and jobs were being created.
"It is foolish to believe that we can continue to grow the economy and provide jobs and job security for Australians without there being a resultant effect on energy-related emissions.
"The adoption of a uniform reduction target at the upcoming Kyoto conference would have a devastating impact on Australian industry and its ability to create jobs."
Senator Hill says Australian industry had taken on the challenge of reducing its level of greenhouse gas emissions.
"Australia remains a small contributor to total greenhouse gases, contributing only about 1.4 per cent of global emissions.
"Nevertheless we share the challenge, of contributing to a global stabilisation of greenhouse gas emissions.
"Any commitment must, however, be fair, realistic and achievable. This is what Australia is pursuing through its proposal for differentiated targets. Differentiation will also provide a sound and equitable basis for developing countries to come on board over time and make their contribution to the global effort.
"Through initiatives such as the Greenhouse Challenge Programme industry is making great progress in its efforts to become more energy efficient and cut greenhouse emissions. There has been significant improvement of what would have been otherwise "business as usual" emissions.
"These efforts are supported by the Cities for Climate Protection Programme with local governments and the National Sustainable Energy Policy.
"The Government is also finalising the National Greenhouse Response Strategy which will provide an action plan for greenhouse gas reduction over the next five years.
Senator Hill says the Government recognises that energy sourced emissions need to be addressed but economic reality must be part of any environmental solution.
"Australia's electricity generation is carbon dioxide intensive as, unlike many other developed countries, we use no nuclear power generation.
"A ready supply of fossil fuels gives us a competitive advantage in energy intensive industries such as minerals processing, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, chemicals, pulp and paper. These industries provide tens of thousands of jobs and billions of export dollars.
"Attempts to unfairly curb the growth in these industries will erode any competitive advantage and may encourage them to move offshore to developing nations which will not have the same greenhouse gas obligations. Australia would be affected more by this 'carbon leakage' than any other OECD country."
The detailed National Greenhouse Gas Inventory figures show that, compared to a 1990 baseline:
The "tyranny of distance" means that Australia's transport sector produces a higher share of total energy emissions than anywhere except the US. To address a geographic reality the Government is currently developing fuel efficiency targets with the automotive industry.
Australia is currently one of only two developed nations that report in detail carbon dioxide emissions resulting from clearing vegetation. Many other OECD countries have either treated this sector in a simplistic manner or have not included estimates in their inventories.
The method of calculating greenhouse gas emissions from land use change activities was significantly modified in the 1995 inventory by using more accurate, but still preliminary, data on vegetation density and clearing rates derived from satellite imagery. Land use change estimates still contain uncertainties in excess of 50 per cent.
Australia's estimates from land use change are probably the most advanced in the world but more work is required to improve their accuracy. The lack of certainty attached to the large fall of emissions from land use change means that, responsibly, it is still best to treat them separately.
Land use change figures indicate a trend but they do reveal opportunities in the future to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Government has launched the $350 million Bushcare programme under the Natural heritage Trust which will have a major impact on increasing carbon sinks. An objective of program is to achieve revegetation at a rate which will exceed the rate of clearing vegetation for the first time since European settlement.
Full inventory documentation can be obtained by telephoning 1800 803 772 during business hours. Further information is available on the Internet at:
Minister's office Matt Brown mobile 0419 693515 (02) 6277 7640
Environment Australia John Durham (02) 6274 1651
Technical inquiries Ian Carruthers (02) 6274 1405
26 September 1997