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Downer again causes Australia embarrassment on climate change.

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Robert McClelland MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Federal Member for Barton

30 August 2007


The United Nations’ top climate change official has rebuked Foreign Minister Alexander Downer for peddling inaccuracies and displaying a misunderstanding of the Kyoto process.

This is not just a humiliation for the Howard Government on the eve of hosting the APEC Leaders Meeting but a significant embarrassment for Australia.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, has specifically contacted The Age and is quoted in that newspaper today rejecting statements recently made by Mr Downer.

In criticising an opinion piece written by the Foreign Minister, Mr de Boer has said:

“(Mr Downer) wrote that the Kyoto Protocol barely covers a third of global emissions, which in fact is not the case.”

Mr de Boer explained how the Kyoto Protocol actually covers more than 70 percent of global emissions and pointed out that while the Howard Government criticises Kyoto as being too weak we were one of the few countries who received major concessions allowing emission increases.

He also emphasised the longer term diplomatic benefits of the Kyoto agreement, pointing out to Mr Downer that you don’t have to “throw away all the architecture and all of the work that was done in creating that protocol.”

This rebuke of the Foreign Minister by the UN’s top official on climate change is the latest example in a decade of decline in Australia’s international reputation on environmental diplomacy.

The evidence of our once excellent international reputation and record being trashed is overwhelming.

• Australia has been labelled a climate change “pariah” in the international press; • Sir Nicholas Stern, one of the world's leading authorities on the economics of climate change said we are “seriously damaging” international efforts

to fight global warming; • Former US Vice President Al Gore has dubbed the US and Australia “the Bonnie and Clyde of the climate debate”; • Stavros Dimas, the European Environment Commissioner, said we have “a

negative attitude on international negotiations”; • There has been a chorus of criticism including former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi; his Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, former

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the leaders of neighbouring states like Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, plus Britain’s Chief Scientist and renowned environmentalist Dr David Suzuki.

Worse still, if the Howard Government is returned, Australia will not have voting rights at the UN climate change conference in Bali this December because of the refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Australia has a real opportunity to help the world find a solution to global warming - but that’s just not going to happen under the Howard Government.

Contact: Tom Cameron 0417 147 932