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Downer climate change admissions keep government on back foot.

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Peter Garrett MP Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Heritage

Wednesday 26 September


Alexander Downer last night continued the Government’s gymnastics on climate change in his appearance on ABC’s Lateline.

Mr Downer initially claimed the Bali UN climate change conference was not a voting forum saying questions about whether Australia could vote or not were a “crackpot theory.” After it was pointed out that this view came from Mr Downer’s own Department he stated inaccurately that “We are fully able to vote” and “Australia is a full and active participant,” even though Australia is precluded from voting at key meetings until it ratifies the Kyoto Protocol (see notes).

Mr Downer also gave the first Government response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report handed down in 2007 - nearly six months after the report was first leaked - saying the IPCC is “the best source of information” on climate change research.

But having finally cited this crucial report Mr Downer then blundered on the subject of forced migration due to climate change in stating: “You are not talking about something that’s going to happen next week.”

That’s because it’s already happening. Carteret Islanders have been in evacuation from their Papua New Guinea homes since November 2006 and Australians on Torres Strait Islands may have to evacuate before the end of 2007.

Mr Downer also let the cat out of the bag on binding greenhouse targets - undermining his showmanship at APEC on “aspirational targets” - by admitting that binding targets would be needed to make the Government’s proposed carbon trading system operational in 2011-12.

Hypocritically, Mr Downer wants to both deride Kyoto while backing differentiated targets for developing and developing countries - exactly the principle underpinning the Kyoto Protocol and supported by Labor, building on

the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” first laid out at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

For further information please contact Ryan Heath 0449 141 398 Notes

1. Australia will not have full voting rights at Bali. Australia has observer status only at the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Bali in December. Although Australia can vote at the parallel Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, there are crucial negotiations that will occur under the Kyoto Protocol on commitments for the second commitment period of the Protocol. Although Mr Downer would prefer to ignore these negotiations, Australia will not have full voting rights at the Bali conference.