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Monday, 20 June 2011
Page: 6554

Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (17:21): I thank the member for Makin for that very important question. About six weeks ago my counterpart from Bangladesh, the Minister for Environment and Forests, who has responsibilities for climate change was in Australia. It was the second occasion I have had the opportunity to speak with him about the issue, as I firstly met him in Mexico in December last year. In fact, we co-chaired discussions about the establishment of an international financing mechanism, a global fund, principally for the purpose of assisting developing countries to implement mitigation measures to cope with the impact of climate change.

There are many people in the population of Bangladesh who live on land that is only marginally above sea level. The risk of sea level rises is immense for the people of Bangladesh. It is one of the reasons that Bangladesh and many other nations affected in a similar manner, such as island states which also have populations living marginally above sea level, have a critical interest in international efforts to mitigate the risk of climate change. They are very mindful of the scientific evidence that I was pointing to in my previous answer and the fact that increasing carbon dioxide emissions, primarily produced through the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, as well as through deforestation activities, are critical issues from their point of view that need to be addressed in an international context.

They are very mindful of the fact that developed countries such as our own have had the opportunity, through industrialisation and through deriving energy sources from the combustion of fossil fuels, to industrialise and develop particular standards of living that the developing nations generally do not share and enjoy. Therefore, they come to the international negotiations with some very firm and understandable views about these matters. They see it as a responsibility upon developed nations, particularly a nation like Australia which has the highest per capita emissions amongst the developed economies and is one of the 20 largest emitters of carbon pollution internationally, to take measures to reduce our levels of pollution and to contribute to international efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. Therefore, the minister from Bangladesh was very interested in the government's carbon price plans. They see it as an important contribution to international efforts. They understand that nations acting on their own can only have so much influence to mitigate the risk of climate change, but they understand well that nations acting together and in good faith to put in place measures to reduce carbon pollution will be what it takes to mitigate risks for millions of people who live very close to sea level.

I have not had the opportunity of speaking with representatives from Tibet directly about this particular issue, but I well know and understand the concerns that they have, and they have expressed them in the international fora as well. At the end of the day, the important message for the Australian community and, I think, for the political leadership in Australia is that the scientific evidence is there. The government formed the Climate Commission to review the evidence, publish material, update the science, coordinate the scientific community and debate within Australia, and conduct public fora to discuss the foundation or policy reason for taking action on climate change and reducing pollution. That is happening. Political leaders need to take responsibility for this matter—to respect the scientific evidence that is presented and to formulate public policy responses accordingly. The public policy response that I think has to be accepted is to reduce pollution in our economy at the lowest cost way—that is, the lowest cost across the economy, households and businesses—to make sure that we are playing our responsible part internationally, and that we are able to participate in international discussions in an appropriate way and have our efforts recognised.