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Thursday, 30 October 2003
Page: 17395

Senator TCHEN (6:50 PM) —This afternoon this chamber debated the Kyoto Protocol Ratification Bill 2003 [No. 2], introduced by Senator Lundy and Senator Brown. I had the opportunity to speak during that debate; however, through my own inept management of time, I did not get the opportunity to make some points that I wanted to make and I would now like to return to the topic of the Kyoto protocol. I did have the opportunity to remind the Senate that the original purpose of the Kyoto protocol, as specified in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was, very importantly, to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner. So economic development has always been a key plank of the Kyoto protocol—not simply a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and, hopefully, climate change, but also economic development. It follows that it was never intended that the adoption of the protocol would or should cause economic hardship to any of the parties or to any of the nations of the world.

It is in this context that the Australian response to the Kyoto protocol is important, because it is quite a complex arrangement between countries. I alluded to that during the debate, and I do not want to go over it again. Because the protocol has economic development as a basic principle, the protocol focuses on the responsibility of the developed countries to deal with the reduction of greenhouse gases and it ignores the possibility that the developing countries will create greenhouse gases at a rate which perhaps was not anticipated at the time this protocol was first framed. So the protocol only applies to developed countries and not to developing countries. This is the major problem of the protocol because, if the developed countries adopt these very fixed targets and then circumstances change in such a way that other countries develop at a faster rate than anticipated or other changes occur, those countries which have been allocated a particular target will be very much disadvantaged. Australia is in such a situation.

Senator Santoro, who spoke in the debate after me, referred to a recent conference on climate change—following the Kyoto protocol conference on climate change called, I think, COP7—held in Moscow earlier this month, at which the Russian government indicated that it is not likely to ratify the Kyoto protocol. Since Russia is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gas after the United States—the two of them combined emit something like 43 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases—it basically means that the Kyoto protocol, which requires countries emitting a total of at least 55 per cent of greenhouse gases to ratify it, is dead in the water. According to a senior economic adviser to Russian President Putin, Andrei Illarionov, the reason that the Russian Federation has indicated that it is not willing to ratify the Kyoto protocol is:

The concrete text—

that is an interesting word—

of the Kyoto protocol and the requirements that Russia is expected to meet, are discriminatory.

He also said:

Considering that the Kyoto Protocol is restricting economic growth, we must say it straight that it means dooming the country to poverty, backwardness and weakness.

That is the danger that faces Australia as well if we adopt the Kyoto protocol, take on many of the undetermined mechanisms at face value and restrict ourselves to it. In fact, the Australian government, in its response to the challenges to Australia of the Kyoto protocol, has put in place many policies which will fully meet the commitments which the protocol assigns to us. The Howard government has, since 1996, committed over $1 billion to combat global warming and greenhouse gas emissions from Australia. It has established the world's first national greenhouse agency: the Australian Greenhouse Office. Today it is still the only national greenhouse office of any nation in the world. The government is currently developing a climate change forward agenda to cover the next 20 to 30 years, which, as it happens, was part of the requirements in the draft bill that Senator Lundy and Senator Brown presented. The Howard government has committed to Australia's suggested Kyoto protocol target of 108 per cent of the 1990 benchmark by 2012.

We are well on track to meeting our requirements under the Kyoto protocol, without tying ourselves to some of those undetermined and untested mechanisms so that Australian industry and the Australian economy will not be held hostage to this international diplomatic manoeuvring which could well damage our nation's future. I want to say that, in terms of Australia's attitude towards the Kyoto protocol, Australia's national interests must come first. We are not unique in that. America and the Russian Federation have now indicated they are doing the same thing. One must assume that those countries which have ratified the Kyoto protocol must have done it according to their national interests as well. Perhaps, in their judgment, ratifying the Kyoto protocol is in their interests. Australia needs to do the same thing. The proposal that Senator Lundy and Senator Brown have come up with has ignored those very important factors.