May 29, 2006

Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol Ratification) Bill 2006

Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol Ratification) Bill 2006

29 May 2006

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12.43 pm)—Today I rise, once again, to introduce the Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol Ratification) Bill 2006, which lapsed due to the government’s unpreparedness to have a debate on this issue. If this bill is passed, the Australian government would be required to ratify the Kyoto protocol and become part of the global solution to the global change—that is, climate change. Climate change is real and it is happening right now. The last four years has seen an unprecedented rise in the global level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

CSIRO’s chief scientist of the Marine and Atmospheric Research Division recently reported that 2005 recorded the highest ever growth of artificial greenhouse gases, up by 5.3 per cent. CSIRO said that 2005 ‘was a record for increases in greenhouse gas heating—the main driver of increasing surface temperature’.

Last year was the hottest year on record. We can already see the kinds of impacts that will only get worse as warming advances: the long-term drought in New South Wales, Kakadu being flooded by salt water and coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. The recent destruction caused by Cyclone Larry must also serve as a reminder of the kind of severe weather events that we must prepare for at home as our planet warms.

If for no other reason than self-interest, Australia should immediately ratify the protocol and engage with the global effort to avoid dangerous climate change.

If passed, this bill will require the Australian government to do several things. First, it must ratify the protocol within 60 days of the commencement of the act. Second, it must ensure Australia meets its greenhouse emission target set out in the Kyoto protocol: 108 per cent of 1990 levels. In industrialised countries, only Iceland has a higher target. Third, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage must develop a national climate change action plan setting out our national strategy for meeting our greenhouse emissions target. Fourth, the minister must establish an annual greenhouse gas inventory and publish the results. Fifth, the minister must also develop a framework for involvement in the international trading of carbon. This will include emissions trading but also clean development mechanism projects in developing countries, and it will make Australia eligible to participate in joint implementation projects under the protocol. Given that Australia is on track to meet our emissions target, there is absolutely no drawback to Australia ratifying Kyoto today.

Last week the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory report of the Australian Greenhouse Office stated that greenhouse gas emissions from energy and transport sectors are spiralling. There has been a 34.7 per cent increase in emissions of 1990 levels from the energy sector; stationary energy, 43 per cent and transport, 23.4 per cent. The reason why we will be able to meet our target is that there has been a 72.5 per cent reduction in emissions, due to decisions to end land clearing by the Queensland and News South Wales Labor governments. It is only because of this action that Australia is on track to meet our Kyoto target. If you exclude land use changes, our overall greenhouse gas emissions increased by 25.1 per cent between 1990 and 2004—one of the most significant increases in the world.

If passed, this bill would enable Australia to be a part of the global market benefits harnessed by the other 158 countries which have ratified the protocol. A recent report by the Australia Institute confirms that the government’s arguments for refusing to ratify the protocol are fundamentally flawed. Staying outside of Kyoto and not pricing carbon nor introducing emissions trading carries significant economic risk.

The report confirms that the Howard government’s policy locks Australia out of emerging carbon markets, retards the development of new, clean industries and fails to preserve the competitiveness of coal exports—this country’s biggest earner—which will be subject to emissions policies and taxes of importing countries.

The potential for innovation and business investment is immense. It is about providing the market based stimulus for the deployment and transfer of clean energy technologies, the transfer of which the International Energy Agency has estimated at $27.5 billion. Australian companies are being disadvantaged now and our technology is moving overseas to countries such as China. Just last month the Roaring 40s company announced a $300 million deal to provide three wind farms to China, at the same time as they withdrew from projects in South Australia and Tasmania.

We need to ratify the Kyoto protocol in the interests of the economy, jobs and the environment.