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Former environment minister says Copenhagen d -

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Former environment minister says Copenhagen deal is close

Eleanor Hall reported this story on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 12:14:00

ELEANOR HALL: To Copenhagen and the politician who led Australia's negotiations at the Kyoto
climate change talks says the process at Copenhagen is much tougher but that he is optimistic about
a deal.

Former Howard government environment minister, Robert Hill, is now an adjunct professor in
sustainability at the US Studies Centre at Sydney University and he's in Copenhagen as an observer.

Mr Hill spoke to me earlier from the conference.

Robert Hill, today the G77 group staged a walk out. Australia's Prime Minister is talking about
major hurdles in the way of a binding operational agreement and some observers say that unless
significant progress is made in the next 24 hours there won't be any sort of a deal.

Now you led Australia's delegation at Kyoto. What is your sense of it? Is there enough progress at
this stage for there to be a deal of substance by Friday?

ROBERT HILL: In my view there is. I actually don't think much will be achieved in the next 24
hours. It will be the few days after that. Heads of state, heads of government are coming in over
the next day or two and they are expecting something like 110 which is unprecedented in terms of a
meeting such as this.

They won't want to go away from this at the end of the week without something they can say is a
significant achievement and on that basis I am reasonably confident of a pretty good outcome.

ELEANOR HALL: Yes, many of the world leaders have already arrived and as you say more are coming.
What difference does it make when leaders join the negotiations? From your experience does it
really kick the process along?

ROBERT HILL: This is actually unprecedented when under a UN process that is actually designed to
lead to a political agreement, to have global leaders stake their reputations on that outcome but I
think it does mean that they therefore have a vested interest in a good outcome. That is what they
need to be able to go home and say they achieved.

I think it can make a significant difference in this instance.

ELEANOR HALL: What must a deal include for you to mark this conference a success?

ROBERT HILL: I think it needs to, I think it will be a so-called political agreement which will
basically be a series of heads of agreement on issues such as target adaptation, forestry, money,
transfers of technology and with it directions that a lot more work be done in the next 12 months.

But I think what people will focus on most is what are the targets that developed countries are
prepared to commit to and also what are the reductions from business as usual that the major
developing countries are prepared to commit to and the signs are that there are going to be
significant offers on the table on both sides in that regard.

ELEANOR HALL: What sort of numbers are you hearing?

ROBERT HILL: Oh well, most of them are publicly known but if you look at economies like Japan's. If
they are talking about a 25 per cent reduction in real terms before 2020, from an economy that is
the most energy efficient in the world, well that is a major restructuring and a major challenge
for them.

So, it is very hard to compare different economies and there is supposed to be an equality of
effort. That is the underlying principle involved but if we are seeing something like that then I
think it is highly significant, of historical significance in fact.

ELEANOR HALL: Some people suggest that we are seeing a change in China. That it's more or less
putting itself in a separate category saying it now won't seek money from developed nations. Do you
see that as a significant move?

ROBERT HILL: China doesn't really need money from developed nations. It has got plenty of money of
its own. What it has really been looking for is technology transfer but I think, I am not sure
whether the little bit of theatre involved in that but what I do think is important is that China
is prepared to commit to a 40 per cent reduction in carbon intensity.

Nobody would have even suggested China would make an offer like that even 12 months ago and that is
why I think the dynamics are moving really quite quickly and although it is a political agreement,
it is not going to be legally binding, nevertheless the commitments that individual states are
going to be prepared to make before the end of this week will add up to something that is very
worthwhile.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, one of the things that the poorer developing nations are calling for is a
commitment to keep warming below 1.5 degrees rather than the 2 degrees that is usually talked
about. What do you think of that? Is that at all realistic?

ROBERT HILL: I don't think it is certainly in the short term. I think the outcome will be seen by
many scientists as falling short of what is scientifically necessary but what is involved is such a
major restructure of economies and the major psychological change really globally but you have got
to take it step by step and that is why the sort of figures that I am hearing in terms of what
developed countries are prepared to offer as targets I think is highly significant but some will
still say that it is inadequate to respond to the dimensions of the challenge before us.

To that I say well, let's move on another step. In Kyoto we made one step on the path. Here,
hopefully, we can make another step and perhaps further down in the future we will build the
confidence to be able to take a third step.

ELEANOR HALL: How does the negotiating process at Copenhagen compare with Kyoto? Do you think it is
easier now or harder to get a deal?

ROBERT HILL: Oh, it is much harder because in Kyoto we only had the developed countries that had to
make commitments. Here we are looking at the whole global community and there are so many more
issues on the table.

You just need to look at the size of the exercise. My recollection was that in Kyoto there would
have been a couple of thousand people. Here there is 40,000. It is now enormous and that is why,
although some might think the outcome at the end of the week will be modest, if it occurs in the
terms that I think is going to happen, I think it is really very significant.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you do sound like you are relatively optimistic about a deal being reached by the
end of the week but how bad would it be if there were not to be a deal?

ROBERT HILL: Well, it would be terrible. It would illustrate that 110 global leaders meeting
together couldn't take the next step in what is an important global challenge and as I said, I
don't think they all want to go home and have to face up to that. That is why I think there will be
a deal.

ELEANOR HALL: Robert Hill, thanks very much for joining us.

ROBERT HILL: Pleasure.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the former environment minister Robert Hill, who led Australia's climate
change negotiations at Kyoto and who is in Copenhagen as an observer.

And you can hear a longer version of that interview which includes Mr Hill's comments on the
walkout by the G77 nations, the challenges facing President Obama and Prime Minister Rudd and
whether politicians actually listen to demonstrators - just go to our website.