Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Matters of Urgency
I too rise to speak on this urgency motion. Whilst I was very happy and thought it important to support Senator Milne’s motion concerning the Tasmanian bushfires, I cannot agree with Senator Milne’s urgency motion on this occasion. Like the rest of the government, I will be opposing this motion.
It is important to have a bit of historical context about some of the issues. Global warming is an emotive issue. Throughout history, when bits and pieces are leaked into society in one way or another, people exaggerate them and take them completely out of context. Let us consider some of the things that have happened over the centuries. In particular, I will refer to some other ‘end of world’ scenarios. Some 150 years ago, London and other cities were faced with the potentially devastating effects of cholera and typhoid which flowed from untreated sewage. The answer was not to stop citizens from consuming water but to embark on a radical clean-up and transformation of infrastructure. You can relate that to what this government is doing as well.
Similarly, damage to the ozone layer and acid rain were pronounced to be irreversible, yet each problem has largely been addressed through changes in the way we organise ourselves. There has been a cultural change to address these problems. Indeed, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is one of the most successful environmental protection agreements in the world. The protocol set out a mandatory timetable for the gradual phase-out of ozone-depleting substances internationally. As a result, there is now mounting evidence of a decline in ozone-depleting substances and an increase in the protective ozone in the atmosphere. Similarly, international action on acid rain has been equally successful. Since the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution came into force, pollution standards have significantly reduced the amount of sulfur dioxide from industrial sources, which has meant a recovery of forests in Europe and North America that were once vulnerable to acid rain.
Governments can effect change, and this government is certainly in the business of effecting change. Climate change has been a moving issue. It has been debated in many countries for a long time, and there has been dissent. It is only in recent years that there has been more global consensus that human activity on this planet has contributed to global climate change. Yes, this government has an attitude of being responsible about that—certainly domestically—but we must remember the international scene. This government can only dictate what happens within its own borders; we cannot change the international environment. How big is this challenge internationally? It is huge. Global demand for power is increasing. Primary energy demand is projected to rise by 53 per cent by 2030, and over 70 per cent of this increase comes from developing countries, led by China and India.
The demand for fossil fuels is expected to rise. By 2030, fossil fuels will provide 81 per cent of global energy needs. This will mean increased CO emissions on a ‘business as usual’ basis of 55 per cent over current levels. More than 75 per cent of this increase is projected to come from developing countries—not from Australia but from developing countries—with China alone to account for almost 40 per cent of the rise in global emissions. Emissions from developing countries are projected to overtake emissions from OECD countries by about 2010.
A lot has been mentioned about the Kyoto protocol and why we have not signed it. The first attempts to address climate change internationally are not proving particularly successful despite being well intentioned. The Kyoto protocol does not and cannot have any real impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions because developing countries, including the world’s biggest emitters, China and India, have no greenhouse abatement obligations. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise above 1990 levels by some 40 per cent by the time 2012 comes around.
This figure could even be higher because most developed countries are falling well short of their emission reduction targets. For example, Canada had a target of 94 per cent but is projected to reach a 116 per cent increase. France is expected to go from 100 to 109 per cent, Japan had a target of 94 per cent but is projected to reach 106 per cent, Norway is to go from 101 to 123 per cent and Spain is to go from 115 to 151 per cent. This indicates that Australia alone cannot solve this problem. There has to be worldwide acceptance, particularly by the emerging and developing countries. Australia has not ratified this protocol simply because, while we can deliver and achieve internally, we cannot control those nations that are not members of the Kyodo protocol group or do not have obligations under the abatement program.
Given a poor start on the international front, how might the international regime evolve post Kyoto? It has been suggested that there is no forward movement and that this government is not looking forward. We are certainly looking forward. The Prime Minister has indicated the need for a new Kyoto protocol. Any approach must include big developing countries and the United States of America. Australia is certainly not the only country to recognise the weakness of the Kyoto protocol. Negotiations are under way to create a stronger and more inclusive protocol, and Australia is part of that process, so we are addressing the need for it. An opportunity now exists to create a genuinely inclusive Kyoto type protocol. Australia can and should be one of the drivers of this process. The participation of the US would be critical, but Australia can take a leading role in the region and internationally to push forward a truly global climate change regime engaging the US in particular. That is where our relationships are very important to this particular issue.
Working with private sector partners is going to be equally critical to this issue. There are aims to deliver greenhouse gas emission management, national pollution reduction and energy security through a series of projects that also can support economic development. My colleague Senator Ronaldson addressed some of these issues and some of the things that we have been attending to domestically when he spoke earlier.
What are Australia’s emissions? It is important to understand the make-up of our emissions. Stationary energy—comprising our power stations as well as our aluminium, cement and steel operations—makes up 50 per cent of emissions, or 280 megatonnes of 560 megatonnes of CO equivalent gases. (Time expired)