Jun 3, 2008

Address to Australia’s Automobile Association Climate Change Summit

Address to Australia’s Automobile Association Climate Change Summit

Canberra, 3 June 2008

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Federal Member for Grayndler

Thank you for the invitation to speak with you today.

I have a long-standing commitment to tackling climate change.

I am pleased to see that the AAA and its members share this commitment, particularly give the enormous influence you have on the motoring public.

The challenge of climate change is the greatest social, economic and environmental challenge of our generation.

Meeting this challenge is a shared responsibility – for governments, industry, communities and individuals alike.

That’s why today’s summit – and the AAA’s contribution to the climate change debate – is so important.

Contribution of transport to emissions

At a global level, transport represents 23% of total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

Domestically, the transport sector is estimated to be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after stationary energy and agriculture, accounting for around 14% of total greenhouse emissions.

Almost 90% of transport greenhouse emissions are derived from the road transport sector and around 54% from passenger cars alone.

Over many years, we have made the car central to our lifestyle – for work, recreation and for the ability to live our lives as we choose.

By world standards, car ownership in Australia is high and can be expected to remain high for the foreseeable future, as the AAA’s combined membership of six and a half million demonstrates.

And the importance we place on car ownership has been reinforced through infrastructure spending by past Commonwealth governments that has concentrated on roads and not other alternatives for transporting freight and passengers.

Australians are also using their cars more than ever before.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Economics based within my department has found that passenger car travel in the capital cities more than doubled between 1977 and 2004 [Source: Australian Transport Statistics Yearbook 2007].

Addressing climate change

Since taking office, the Rudd Government has taken several important steps towards reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

At an international level, we took the significant step of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.

We are a strong participant within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – the main world forum for determining how we can best respond to climate change on a global basis.

After years of being isolated from international debate, Australia is at long last fully engaged in international negotiations.

In addition, we have committed to reducing emissions by 60 percent on 2000 levels by 2050.

At the heart of this is our commitment to introduce emissions trading in 2010.

Tackling climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions is a crucial economic reform.

We must make the transition to a low carbon economy if we are going to secure our future economic prosperity.

Our Emissions Trading Scheme will do this in the most efficient way, by putting a limit on the emissions we allow to be produced and by fully harnessing the power of the market.

My department is contributing to the development of the Emissions Trading Scheme by feeding in expertise and analysis to the Treasury modelling for transport emissions.

The Government will release a Green Paper in July 2008 outlining options and our preferred approach to the design of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Addressing transport emissions

Let me now turn specifically to the transport sector and what we are doing to reduce transport-related emissions.

We all know transport is an essential driver of economic development and growth.

It facilitates exchange among countries and fosters relations among people.

Reducing transport emissions is one of the greatest challenges facing the sector and will require a collaborative approach by governments and industry.

Finding the right balance between supporting the economic drivers of trade and mobility and reducing transport’s energy intensity and emissions is among the top priorities of the Government’s policy agenda today.

As you would be aware, in the Budget we established the $20 billion Building Australia Fund for investment in critical infrastructure.

Allocations from this Fund will be guided by advice from Infrastructure Australia on national infrastructure investment priorities.

Infrastructure Australia has also been tasked with providing advice to the government on infrastructure policy issues arising from climate change.

The members of the Infrastructure Australia Board, led by Sir Rod Eddington, have extensive experience in examining infrastructure-related issues.

Their advice on issues such as urban congestion and the efficiency of our transport networks will play an important part in the abatement of greenhouse gases.

One of the members of the Board that I will mention in particular is Professor Peter Newman – Professor of Sustainability Strategy at Curtin University.

Professor Newman invented the term ‘automobile dependence’ to describe how we have created cities where we have to drive everywhere.

He also helped produce Western Australia’s sustainability strategy, which was one of the first of its kind in the world.

In addition, he has written a number of books on climate change with a focus on our cities.

You can be assured that sustainability and climate change issues will be an important consideration in any of Infrastructure Australia’s work.

Working closely with Infrastructure Australia will be the newly-established Major Cities Unit.

Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world – with four out of five Australians living in urban areas.

Despite this, the previous Commonwealth Government disengaged itself from cities, and took a hands-off approach to their growth and development.

Australia’s major cities, and by this I don’t just mean the capitals but places like Townsville, Newcastle, the Gold Coast and Geelong, are facing major infrastructure and planning challenges, most notably urban congestion.

Establishing the Major Cities Unit shows that the Government is serious about addressing urban congestion.

The Unit will aim to:

  • increase productivity by reducing urban congestion and improving our freight networks so that people and goods can move more efficiently;
  • ensure sustainability by making sure our cities provide closer links between work and home, and of course to ensure that infrastructure is planned and built with the aim of reducing emissions and securing our water supply; and
  • improve liveability – by making sure planning accommodates participation and lifestyle.

Unclogging the roads of our big cities will help us reduce emission levels.

If we can reduce traffic congestion then we can reduce the millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere by the thousands of vehicles trapped in traffic snarls in all our big cities.

There are many other benefits from unclogging the roads: greater productivity, healthier living environments and less time travelling means more time spent at home with families.

Other steps the Government is taking to reduce transport emissions include:

  • Together with the states, providing $132.5 million for the states to undertake a series of extensive studies into a number of landmark projects to tackle urban congestion and, accordingly, climate change.
  •  For example: the proposed Western Metro (Green Line) in Sydney and the East-West Road and Rail Links in Melbourne.
  • Working with the states and territories to investigate measures to complement an emissions trading scheme as part of the Australian Transport Council’s work on a national transport policy.
  •  Introducing a new Australian Design Rule – to be implemented from October this year for new models and April 2009 for all models – to provide consumers with more detailed information about the fuel consumption of different models.
  • The Green Vehicle Guide website, which provides a simple to use star system which rates a vehicle’s environmental performance, helping Australian motorists to make informed choices about the environmental impact of their next new car.
  • The $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund to encourage the manufacturing of low emission vehicles in Australia.
  •  Australian Government participation in international forums looking to reduce transport emissions, such as the International Transport Forum’s inaugural summit held in Leipzig in Germany.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Government is driving a groundbreaking climate change agenda to transition Australia to a low carbon economy.

We are doing this because we understand the costs of inaction far outweigh the cost of acting now.

Much of the groundwork has been set in our first 6 months in government, but there are many important steps to come, particularly in relation to the emissions trading scheme.

The AAA has a role to play in its continued engagement on these issues.

I look forward to a continued close working relationship with the AAA on climate change and other transport-related issues.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

I hope that you enjoy the rest of the summit.