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Government running interference on international efforts to address climate change.

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

4 March 2007


The Howard Government’s stubborn refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol is seriously hurting Australia’s international reputation. It’s simply untrue to suggest otherwise.

The story hasn’t changed in ten years. In December 1997 the Irish Times described Australia’s role at the Kyoto conference as being “something of a pariah”. Yesterday the European Environment Commissioner said that we have “a negative attitude on international negotiations” and said “I can really not understand why Australia has not ratified Kyoto.”

Climate change is clearly a complex debate, but there is no debate that the Howard Government has severely damaged our international reputation on this most important of issues. It’s an open and shut case.

The key question is: If Australia is close to meeting our Kyoto targets, as the Government continue to remind us, then why don’t they sign Kyoto?

This should be done for the sake of our international reputation and also to give us a place at the table as the international community discusses further measures to address climate change.

Yesterday the Prime Minister told the ABC’s World Today program:

“Let's understand what's happening here. You've got the spokesman for a group of countries lecturing us about not having signed Kyoto, yet the great bulk of the countries on whose behalf he speaks are falling well behind their Kyoto targets… now, Australia by contrast, is actually on track.”

The Government are willing to acknowledge that climate change requires global action. The Environment Minister said on weekend television that “it's a global problem”. Yet by not ratifying the Kyoto agreement Australia’s international reputation is undermined as is our ability to play a significant role in developing future measures.

It’s simply not credible for the Prime Minister to say that Australia’s ability to help forge a new post-Kyoto global agreement isn’t severely inhibited by his ongoing refusal to the original Kyoto agreement.

The bottom line is that the Government’s climate change scepticism and obstruction is getting in the way of us helping the world take the next step.

In the past Australia played a leading role in working with the international community to reach an agreement that resulted in a significant reduction of ozone depleting CFCs in the atmosphere. There is no reason why we can’t again play such a significant role if we had a government serious committed to addressing the issue of climate change.

Instead of acting as a Good International Citizen the Howard Government’s refusal to ratify Kyoto is running interference on efforts by the international community to develop climate change solutions.

Contact: Tom Cameron 0417 147 932