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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 33

Senator EGGLESTON (2:52 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell. Will the minister inform the Senate how the Howard government is meeting its greenhouse emission targets as set by the Kyoto protocol? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —I thank Senator Eggleston, a Liberal senator from the state of Western Australia, for the question. Western Australia has a very big stake in ensuring that Australia and the world gets climate change right, because rainfall in the south-west of our state has gone down by about 12 per cent in the last 25 years and is expected to go down further by about 15 per cent. It confirms that climate change is in fact a reality. The reality is that there are significant reductions in the size of the Antarctic icepack. There is significant climate change occurring around the world. There is no longer a question about whether climate change is affecting the world. The real questions are: what is causing it and what are the solutions? The jury is, it is fair to say, scientifically out on both of those big answers. Governments of the world need to work together to ensure that we address what I call the biggest threat to the environment.

Today is therefore a great day for Australia in its environmental history to report that, with the most accurate carbon accounting system in the world developed by the Australian government and its agencies, Australia is right on target to achieve its internationally negotiated Kyoto emissions target. The target was set at the Kyoto conference, at which Australia was represented by the then environment minister, Robert Hill. The target we set was 108 per cent of our 1990 emissions and we are on track to achieve that. We are only on track to achieve that because of very strong domestic policies that are focused on greenhouse gas emissions. We have a good partnership with the state governments in this regard. We have a good policy and a good partnership with local governments in this regard—something like 176 local councils have signed up to the national program, as have many Australian industries. This shows that, during the Kyoto target period, because of these domestic policies and actions, Australians working together will have reduced their carbon emissions or greenhouse gas emissions by around 94 million tonnes. For the uninitiated, that figure is equivalent to all of the emissions produced by every vehicle on every road in Australia: big trucks, small trucks, cars—everything, Senator Ian Macdonald. So it is a phenomenal achievement. It certainly is not a time to bask in self-congratulation. We are on track to achieve it. We are in fact one of the few nations in the world that will achieve our Kyoto target, and that is something to celebrate. However, the report does show that expansion of the economy puts the achievement of future targets and greenhouse gases at risk.

The good news is that we will in that time double the size of the Australian economy, from about a $500 billion economy to a $1,000 billion economy, and greenhouse emissions will go up about eight per cent. The scientific consensus is that we need to reduce greenhouse gases by 50 to 60 per cent, if we are to effect climate change, and the world is simply not achieving that at the moment. I will be travelling to the conference of the parties to the framework convention next week to work with other nations to ensure that beyond Kyoto we can achieve a far more robust, more comprehensive outcome and that by working together with industry, governments around the world, the large emitters, developed and developing countries, we take our part in this tough challenge. (Time expired)

Senator EGGLESTON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Could the minister further elaborate on the risks inherent in Australia not meeting its greenhouse targets? Did Australia establish the world's first greenhouse abatement office?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —That is dead right: we did establish the first Australian Greenhouse Office. We also established the first mandatory renewable energy targets. We have brought in a series of programs, worth about $1.8 billion, to encourage development of technologies that can do that. Senator Eggleston asked me about alternative policies.

Senator Forshaw —He did not.

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —He did actually. In the weekend Canberra Times—which of course ever since I was territories minister I always read carefully—Rosslyn Beeby wrote an article which referred to the `apprentice' environment opposition spokesperson, Mr Albanese. It said:

Give us a break! It's Labor that is blundering through a protracted political apprenticeship on environmental issues ...

If you look at their web site— (Time expired)