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Greenhouse inaction could brand Australia as international pariah

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Senator Meg Lees Australian Democrats

Deputy Parliamentary Leader and Environment Spokesperson

30 May, 1996____________ MEDIA RELEASE________________ 96/293


Australia risks becoming an international pariah if the Federal Government fails to take swift and strong action to meet international targets to reduce greenhouse gas levels, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats' environment spokesperson Senator Meg Lees today moved an urgency motion in the Senate which outlined steps needed for Australia to meet its obligations under the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Federal Government next Tuesday is expected to determine what steps it will take in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of an international conference in Geneva in July.

Senator Lees said Australia risked an embarrassing repeat of last year's Berlin conference where the former Labor Government set in place policies which effectively ensured the nation's greenhouse gas reduction targets could not be met.

"The former Government set a very low benchmark, a benchmark where there are no domestic requirements," Senator Lees said. "They also failed to institute a number of 'no regrets' measures, like mandatory building codes or emission controls.

"This weak position was as a direct result of intensive lobbying by some sections of industry and has ensured Australia is the worst per capita offender when we assess greenhouse gas emissions."

Senator Lees said every country must take responsibility for the mitigating the effect of climate change.

"There are just a few intransigent countries and Australia has the dubious honour of being the most intransigent of the OECD countries," she said. .

The Democrats called on the Federal Government to adopt the following position at the forthcoming international climate conference: - support legally binding greenhouse pollution reduction targets for industrialised countries after the year 2000;

- emission targets be set at levels needed to avoid the dangerous impacts of climate change predicted by the UN Panel of 2,500 climate change experts and scientists; - that any strategy developed include provision for large scale transfer of the best available technologies to developing countries.

F o r comment, contact: Senator Meg Lees (06) 277 3991.

D e m o c r a i ^ ” ™


From Senator Meg Lees To Senator Robert Hill

SENATOR LEES: Minister I refer you to a recent report by a United Nations panel o f some 2500 climate change scientists and experts who started very clearly that climate change is occurring and will continue at a rate that will

lead to, and I quote, "significant loss o f life and possibly the obliteration o f entire cultures"'unless urgent steps to reduce emissions are taken. And I ask: Does your government accept that climate change is occurring and that Australia has a responsibility to work with other industrialised countries to

significantly reduce emissions. And finally, do you agree that if your government continues the previous government's policy o f attempting to block international action to cut greenhouse emissions that this would leave Australia exposed to international actions over which we would have no


SENATOR HILL: Γ think on the balance of the science that climate change is occurring as a result of human intervention. I say on the balance of science because it's not beyond dispute but never the less the paper that is to be presented by the panel to the Geneva conference in July comes to that conclusion and it is produced by a very eminent group of scientists; that I

accept. I accept also that it's a global responsibility and all states, whether they be developed or developing have a responsibility to contribute to remedial - action and therefore look to ways in which we can internationally reduce

greenhouse emissions. I think the third part of the question was do I fear that Australia may be left out alone and suffer some punitive action as a result of our position. What I can say to that is that I think there are areas of concern' for Australia because of the nature of our economy. In many ways our particular economy is unique

among those of the developed world and we must ensure that we find the formula that not only makes an international contribution on our part but also protects our economy. And we have a responsibility to look after the interests of three-quarters-of-a-million Australians who are still out of work. And if you

are asking me to adopt a position that will significantly reduce Australia’s international competitiveness, then I don’t think that would be in our national interest.

SENATOR LEES: I thank the Minister for his answer. I f I could just ask for further clarification, in what way is our economy so unique that we have a right to go on polluting the environment at a faster rate than any other industrialised country and do you release that there are a range o f industries

that we should be encouraging, particularly in the solar industry area that could indeed lead the world with the new technology and i f we don't support them surely we are missing out on export opportunities, particularly into developing countries, Japan and the United States?

SENATOR HILL: Well one way is I think we're the world's largest coal exporter, or near enough to the largest and if you have a look at today's current account figures you will recognise that in fact we have a major problem in our external accounts. And if you're advocating a course of action that would substantially reduce one of our principle areas of export, what I would say to you is that it is not in the national interest.

You went on to ask questions about should we be developing alternative methods of energy. My answer to that: obviously yes, and we are. I'm pleased that the voluntary action that's been taken by a lot of Australian industry, not only to reduce emissions but also to develop alternative methods of energy, and

I believe there is in fact an opportunity for Australia to be an exporter of that technology. It's starting to happen already and there's great potential for it in the future. '