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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7445

Mr HUNT (Flinders) (11:12): It gives me considerable pleasure to support this motion by the member for Lyons. Whilst I may not agree with all his political choices I do have great respect for his integrity and decency. Having said that, I want to look at the first part of this motion, and that is in relation to the international sustainability and protection of the great rainforests, the threat to those forests and the opportunity for cooperative international action not just to protect these forests but to make a rapid, real reduction in global greenhouse emissions in the shortest possible time and in the largest possible way at the lowest possible cost.

Let me begin with this proposition: on the best advice, of the world's over 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or related gases released each year, almost 20 per cent of that comes from the destruction of rainforests and other forests. This is a huge signature, a huge footprint, an enormous release of greenhouse gases, be it CO2, methane or other emissions which have an impact on the greenhouse process. It is also an extraordinary testimony to significant, widespread destruction of the great forests of the world and in particular the great rainforests of the world. So the task, the duty, the responsibility is to try to create a system which allows for sustainable management of these great rainforests, which protects the magnificent biodiversity and which protects in particular many of the indigenous communities throughout the equatorial regions of the world—whether in Africa, in Asia, in the Pacific or in Latin America—who have suffered and are suffering the loss of their environment as well as their livelihood. The background is that the pressures are real for land, for the growth of crops, for the supply of foodstuffs and in many cases for the supply of energy through sugar cane, which is being used for biodiesel equivalents in Brazil and parts of Latin America. As a consequence of this the rainforests in many parts of the world are being destroyed, degraded and damaged. That in turn is a loss of biodiversity, a loss of community and a release of CO2 or equivalent gases on a grand scale.

At the highest level our goal and our objective as an alternative government of Australia is to see that the world establishes a genuine global rainforest recovery program. In the next five years, we want to see the goal of a 50 per cent reduction in the approximately eight billion tonnes of annual CO2 or equivalent gases released from rainforest destruction. This is a real and achievable goal. It is significant, and nothing would do more at a faster rate on a grander scale to reduce the immediate global footprint than to protect the great forests of the world. That is a desirable, achievable, fundamental goal that can bring both the developed and the developing worlds together at a time when there is scant agreement internationally over the way to deal with this problem.

The specifics we would like to introduce in order to ensure that we build on the work that has been done, whether it is Brazil or Indonesia or other parts of the word, are threefold. First, we believe that the Australian government should co-host, preferably with Indonesia, an international summit on preserving the world's rainforests. In particular, my view and our view is that that summit could be held later this year before the next major United Nations climate summit in South Africa as it could be a way to ensure significant, real and genuine progress and provide the opportunity for something to come out of this summit on international climate change processes. It would be a fundamental step towards protecting the great rainforests and reducing emissions.

Second, the summit's goal would be to spearhead and coordinate efforts to protect and preserve the world's rainforests, from Brazil to PNG, and in particular to create a time frame and a mechanism to protect these forests. There are many forms of incentive payments to protect against destruction, on the basis of abatement, and could provide a way forward. This is the moment to seize the opportunity to protect these great rainforests.

Third, our commitment is very simple. If we can achieve an international agreement, whether it is on the current watch or our watch, if we are fortunate to be given that opportunity, we will work to ensure that there is support in both the developed world and in the developing world for such an agreement. Just look at the examples, whether it is in Costa Rica, or parts of Brazil, or in Indonesia or, in particular, in Mexico, where there have been stewardship agreements between the international community, which has been willing to provide resources, the host government and the local Indigenous community to protect and steward these forests. This is a model for the sort of approach that could take the world forward in terms of rapid reduction of emissions at a low cost of abatement on a large scale. Nothing the world can do will make a bigger, faster reduction in the global CO2 footprint.

Against that background I welcome this motion from the member for Lyons. I particularly note that the international opportunities for protection of the great rainforests are real, but it is the sad case that the work begun under the previous government has barely been taken forward under this government, in part, I fear, because it was an agenda of the Liberal-National coalition to drive forward great rainforest protection. I would offer the hand of friendship to the government and say, 'Please join us in this commitment to protecting the great rainforests.' The member for Lyons's motion is an important step in that direction, and I thank him for his work.

Domestically there is also a parallel here. Domestically our whole approach is based on voluntary and willing participation. That is why we have supported an incentives based scheme rather than a tax based scheme to reduce emissions, which, among other things, provides the opportunity to capture carbon in plantation forests, in soil and in revegetation through mallee and mulga. These are real opportunities for capturing carbon and reducing emissions—doing so at a low cost, on a grand scale, within Australia.

I simply turn to the work of the CSIRO's Sustainable Agriculture Flagship. The head of that flagship, Dr Michael Battaglia, prepared a very significant paper recently. That paper made it clear that it would be possible to reduce Australia's emissions by 20 per cent per annum over 40 years through the use of green carbon or the capture of carbon in natural ecosystems. That is an enormous opportunity. The CSIRO work of Dr Michael Battaglia, is more aggressive than the figures presented by the coalition in our direct action policy. We were conservative in our estimates. The CSIRO, which is itself a conservative scientific agency, has, however, made much more aggressive projections as to what is achievable with incentive payments. That is good news for Australia and it is good news for the emissions reduction possibilities. I commend the idea of an incentives scheme rather than a tax based scheme and commend the idea of a global rainforest recovery program. (Time expired)