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Thursday, 24 May 2007
Page: 90


Mr TURNBULL (Minister for the Environment and Water Resources) (3:33 PM) —The member for Kingsford Smith said towards the end of his rambling and irrelevant remarks about climate change that fitness to govern is measured by the extent to which a party understands the nature of the challenge ahead. If that proposition is accepted as right—and it seems a reasonable one—then the member for Kingsford Smith has demonstrated comprehensively that he is unfit to form a part of any government and that he is certainly unfit to make any contribution to climate change. In his 15 minutes to speak on this matter of public importance, he missed the key point: that we are facing the greatest economic challenge of our times. The world needs a massive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the course of this century, and in order to achieve that massive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions we need global action. We need to get all of the world’s major emitters committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That is the challenge of the future.

Whoever you talk to in the climate change world—be they environment ministers, scientists or economists—they all recognise that the big challenge is how to bring the big emitting countries such as China, the United States, India and Europe together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, above all, to achieve that which Kyoto has failed to achieve, which is to secure meaningful reductions in emissions from the fastest growing emitters in the developing world—in particular, China, which in and of itself will contribute to 40 per cent of the growth in global greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades. None of that was mentioned. The member for Kingsford Smith has no strategy for achieving the object that we need to achieve of global reductions in greenhouse emissions. If we do not achieve that, we will get nothing.

We do emit 1½ per cent of global greenhouse emissions, but we receive in our own territory 100 per cent of the consequences of climate change. So global action is vital. The Australian government is leading the world in climate change policies. We are leading the world on energy efficiency. We are the first country to phase out incandescent lighting. The British Prime Minister elect, Gordon Brown, complimented Australia on this only a few days ago. If the rest of the world were to follow Australia’s example, the world would reduce its energy demands by an amount equal to five times Australia’s electricity consumption. That is a significant move in energy efficiency.

We have also been a world leader in changing the standards for stand-by power so that, when devices like stereos or televisions are put on standby mode, they use less energy. That is again where we have been leading on energy efficiency—which is, after all, one of those early action opportunities that we have identified as being vital. We recognise that, to achieve the massive cuts in emissions that the world needs in the course of this century, we will have to get to a point by the middle of this century where the bulk of our stationary energy is generated with zero or near zero emissions. That is an enormous challenge. It is technically not possible to do today.

There are three countries at the cutting edge of clean coal development—Australia, the United States and the Netherlands. The fact is we are leading the world in those energy efficiency measures I mentioned: in clean coal development, which is so vital. There is no low-emissions technology more important to achieving the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions this century than clean coal, because coal is the most abundant source of stationary energy around the world. It is the most abundant source of energy for the fastest-growing economies—particularly China and India, who have substantial coal resources of their own. And if we can commercialise and complete the technology that the CSIRO is working on today to capture CO emissions after combustion and store them we could then begin to retrofit the coal fired power stations of the world.

We are leading in that area. I am not suggesting we are the only country working on it—we want everybody to work on it—but the member for Kingsford Smith runs down the achievements of Australian scientists and despises them in his arrogance. We are ahead, and it is because of the ingenuity of Australian scientists, the commitment of those men and women, and the support they have had over 11 years from the Howard government.

Let me mention another area where Australia is leading the world. The second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions comes from deforestation, and the bulk of that is in the tropical countries of the developing world. The Kyoto protocol basically does not deal with deforestation. It has been completely ineffective in dealing with deforestation in developing countries. In fact, as I have said in this place before, in some respects Kyoto actually encourages deforestation by promoting the use of palm oil. Of course, palm oil is grown in plantations which have been built after rainforests have been clear-felled, and many NGOs have said that the way Kyoto operates at the moment promotes deforestation.

That failing in Kyoto is well recognised, but it is Australia that has put $200 million on the table for a global initiative on forest and climate. It is Australia, first among developed countries, that is leading the charge to put forestry on top of the climate change agenda because, like energy efficiency, it is early action. If we reduce deforestation we can cut emissions today. What did the member for Kingsford Smith say about that measure, which has been so well received around the world in developing countries and developed countries from Washington to Jakarta? What did he describe it as? ‘A modest measure’; again he despises this effort, just like he despises the work of Australian scientists on clean coal. He despises the achievements of his own country and seeks to put it down.

We know we must do better in the battle against climate change—we all must; every country must—but let me say that Australia is playing its part and in vital areas is leading the way. Let me give you another example of where we lead the way, and that is in national carbon accounting. No country has a better-respected system for carbon accounting, so vital to responding to climate change. After all, if the objective is to reduce CO emissions, how can you manage something you cannot reliably measure? Our technology is so well regarded we are working closely and sharing it with other countries, including China.

But I will get back to the really big challenge of bringing all the nations together—that global commitment which Kyoto failed to achieve. The problem with Kyoto is that it did not deliver a pathway for the fastest-growing emitters to commit to emission reductions. Article 3.9 of the Kyoto protocol actually states that in future commitment periods—that is to say commitment after the one between 2008 and 2012, which is what we are tracking to at the moment—only developed nations will be asked to make cuts. That cannot work. We cannot achieve the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we need only with cuts from the developed world. There has to be contribution from across the world.

The honourable member also said it was absurd for me to say that we were doing well as against other developed countries. Let us remember this: our Kyoto target was 108 per cent of 1990 emissions, and we are on track to meet it. We have been criticised, I recognise, and there is an institute that said we may miss it by two per cent. Well, we will not miss it by two per cent; we will meet it. But let us compare our position to that of some other developed countries. We could be like Canada, which will miss its Kyoto target by 44 per cent; Spain, which will miss its by 36 per cent; or Austria—by 28 per cent—or the EU-15 itself. The 15 countries of the EU will collectively miss their target by seven per cent, based on their own domestic measures.

The reality is that among developed countries that are not former parts of the Soviet Union—which therefore benefited in a perverse way from the collapse of the Soviet Union, which of course resulted in their post-1990 emissions being dramatically lower—the only countries on track to better their Kyoto targets are the UK, which of course has benefited from Mrs Thatcher in effect shutting down the coal industry and moving to gas, although the move is coming back the other way, Sweden and Iceland.


Mr Garrett —And land clearing?


Mr TURNBULL —The honourable member asks about land clearing. Land clearing and land use are a vital part of the carbon cycle. He says he is fit to govern; he does not even understand how the carbon cycle works. You have got your carbon geosequestration, land use, planting trees and cutting down trees. These all have an impact on the carbon cycle, and of course they have to be taken into account. It is quite appropriate that they should be taken into account.

The member for Kingsford Smith and his colleagues—the Leader of the Opposition, in particular—always miss the point on climate change because they forget that global warming is a global challenge. They do not have a forward agenda. Consider the track record of the Howard government. We have established with other countries the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate—AP6, as it is called. This is a group of the largest emitters, including the biggest economy in the world, the United States, the fastest-growing economy in the world in China, and India and Japan. We have pulled together that group of countries and we are sharing and developing the technology that will enable each of us to achieve our objective of reducing emissions. In partnership with China we are developing the clean coal technology that will enable China to reduce its emissions and thereby achieve the reduction in global greenhouse emissions we need. That formed no part of the member for Kingsford Smith’s speech. There is no international agenda. It is as though he believes Australia is in a little bubble and we just have to do things in Australia and everything will be all right. This is a global problem.

His consistent failure to understand the facts associated with the issues in his portfolio is not limited to this particular issue of climate change today. Only a few days ago, late last week, the member for Kingsford Smith and the Leader of the Opposition pledged that a Labor government would send naval vessels—warships—to intercept, board and arrest Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—Minister, that has nothing to do with the MPI.


Mr TURNBULL —It does, Mr Deputy Speaker. Bear with me; it does.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Tie it back to it.


Mr TURNBULL —The whaling issue is directly connected to climate change because the whales feed on krill, which in turn feed on algae which live underneath the ice shelf, which, of course, as the ocean is warming, is continuing to melt. So there is a vital need to protect the whales as part of our climate change response. The whales are under threat from global warming. That is one of the reasons why Australia is so committed to protecting whales and why I will be going to Anchorage shortly to again prosecute Australia’s case for the protection of whales. But our case has been undermined by the reckless ignorance of the member for Kingsford Smith, who proposed that the Australian Navy should engage in illegal action in international waters.


Mr Garrett —We proposed no such thing.


Mr TURNBULL —You did. That is not the first time you have misled this House.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! Discussion should be done through the chair.


Mr TURNBULL —The member for Kingsford Smith and the opposition leader proposed that naval vessels should intercept and board Japanese whalers on the high seas in international waters, which are regarded by Japan and by almost every other country in the world as international waters.


Mr Garrett —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister has strayed from the topic of the matter of public importance—and he is misrepresenting Labor policy on whaling and he knows it.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order. The minister is straying a bit from the MPI.


Mr TURNBULL —The protection of the whales is a key element in the overall response to climate change and adaptation to climate change. Our efforts have been undermined. As the New Zealand minister, Chris Carter, said only the yesterday—(Time expired)