Nov 16, 2006

The G-20’S Opportunity to lead on Climate Change

The G-20’S Opportunity to lead on Climate Change




16 November 2006

I’m delighted to be on the panel today with Stephen Timms.

The British Government is leading the way on making poverty history.

Their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals is inspiring.

And I’m also delighted to be invited to speak at this Make Poverty History forum today.

The Make Poverty History campaign has been one of the most successful examples of civil society moving government in history.

As Andrew has observed, the G-20 meeting here in Melbourne this weekend represents a crucial opportunity to address global economic challenges.

And making poverty history is one of the starkest challenges for the global economy.


But my purpose here today is to argue that climate change is the kind of global economic challenge that we should be discussing at every international forum.

If left unaddressed, as the British Government’s Stern Report has warned, climate change has the capacity to become one of the largest contributors to global poverty the world has yet seen.

That’s why I want to make the case today that whenever the developed and developing world come together to discuss the future challenges we all face, discussion about climate change must play a central role.

I suspect many of you don’t need convincing of that.

The science and politics of global warming have been known for some time.

I know you’ve heard about the relevance of climate change for development at one of the parallel sessions earlier today.

Climate change has grave implications for Australia. We need look no further than the current drought and our ongoing challenges on water.

But in Australia there are enough climate change sceptics — or, to be kind, late converts to climate change — to fill a whole cabinet room.

Addressing climate change must be a crucial part of Australia’s approach to global development because the burden of climate change will fall predominantly on the global poor.

In Australia’s case, the risk of not doing anything on climate change will fall heavily on our Pacific neighbours.

This means climate change is not just an environmental and moral issue. The implication of climate change for developing nations in our region and around the globe mean that addressing climate change is central to defending Australia’s national interest.

As a recent paper from Alan Dupont and Graeme Pearman published by the Lowy Institute has warned, climate change poses ‘fundamental questions of human security, survival and the stability of nation states.’

Rising sea levels. Extreme weather events. Collapsing eco-systems. The contamination of fresh water with salt water. Increased water-borne diseases. Threats to food security. Natural disasters. Risks to our energy security. The new challenge of climate refugees.

As Sir Nicholas Stern warned me, when Bangladesh, the Netherlands and scores of Pacific islands are underwater, it’s too late to act.


The G-20’s mandate is to discuss key issues in the global economy.

But climate change — a topic of truly global economic significance — isn’t on the agenda for this meeting.

Through a decade of climate scepticism, the Australian Government has denied there’s an urgent problem.

Recently, however, with heat from the Stern review and a big shift in public sentiment, the Australian Government has argued that if there is to be a new global agreement on climate change, India, China and the United States must be on board.

Recently the Treasurer was asked about global emissions trading and said: “Well I don’t think it is at all feasible if you have got large emitters such as the United States, China and India that are outside the system.”

Well, India, China and the United States are all members of the G-20.

This meeting is ideal opportunity to discuss how to reduce the billions of tonnes of carbon those countries produce each year.

In addition to the Kyoto discussions, global pressure from other major nations through the G-20 could lead these countries to lower their emissions.

Progress through the G-20 could help us reach the tipping point for global change.

But despite the fact that India, China and the United States are here this weekend— along with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom — climate change isn’t on the agenda for the G-20.

Energy security is on the G-20’s agenda, and I’m pleased that they’re talking about it.

But energy security can’t be separated from climate change.

Despite many worthy endeavours, the G-20 as an institution needs to carve out its own global policy niche.

As the British environment secretary David Miliband said this week, climate change is the defining global issue and requires global co-operation.

To my mind, climate change provides the G-20 with opportunity for moral leadership.

The G-20 represents about 85 per cent of global GDP and about two-thirds of the global population.

It should not pass up the chance to press home the importance of a global response to climate change with those countries whose contribution is key.


Last month I travelled to London to meet with Chancellor Gordon Brown and Stephen Timms and Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern report on the economics of climate change.

In my meeting with Sir Nicholas he underscored how the long term economic cost of not acting on climate change is far worse than the short term cost of taking steps to lower our carbon emissions.

But crucially, he pointed out that going carbon clean is the growth strategy.

In fact with the right policies and incentives, Australian industries and consumers could actually benefit from addressing climate change.

I absolutely repudiate the suggestion that carbon trading will harm the competitiveness of our great commodity industries.

As the Stern report notes, fossil fuels will continue to play an important role.

In fact, emissions trading will spur new development in clean coal and carbon capture and storage.

As the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change has recognised, Australian businesses and consumers will benefit from early action.

That’s why the Roundtable has called for a national market based carbon pricing mechanism to deliver cost-effective emission reductions.

And they’ve called for decisive action to give Australian companies the certainty they need to make investment decisions.

They understand that acting now will give them access to new markets and new opportunities.

While I was in London I also met with representatives of the Carbon Trust, a private company set up with government backing to accelerate Britain’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

The Carbon Trust works with businesses to find ways to save money by investing in low carbon technology, and it offers interest-free loans to SMEs to help them implement low-carbon strategies.

It also matches highly innovative new technologies with venture capital to get them off the ground.

Organisations like the Carbon Trust are crucial to helping businesses and communities find ways to embrace a carbon-clean growth strategy.

But climate change demands international collective action, and international co-operation must cover all aspects of policies to reduce emissions — and that means carbon pricing as well as low emission technology.

The next speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has identified climate change as one of her top legislative priorities.

She supports the Kyoto protocol and emissions trading.

She knows that when it comes to international agreements on climate change, Kyoto is very important.

Australia must ratify the Kyoto protocol, substantially increase support for renewable energy and other low carbon technologies, cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 and establish a national emissions trading scheme to drive investment in clean energy technology.


None of this means that we should avoid directly addressing global poverty.

Labor is unequivocally committed to working with developing countries to realise the Millennium Development Goals.

Aid policy must be directed to encouraging sustainable economic growth that benefits the poor; promoting good leadership, strong civil societies and effective states; promoting security; and contributing to effective responses to humanitarian crises.

But meeting the Millennium Development Goals must be the top priority of our aid program.

Labor welcomed the Government’s announcement last year that it intends to increase Australia’s development assistance budget to 0.36 per cent of Australia’s gross national income in 2010.

But in 2010, that would make Australia 19th out of the 22 OECD donors.

Labor believes the Government should commit to increasing Australia’s development assistance budget to 0.5 per cent of gross national income as quickly as fiscal circumstances permit, so that Australia can do its fair share to end extreme global poverty.


One promise of the Millennium Development Goals is that every child in the world will have a place in school.

That means creating 200 million places just to ensure that all our children have the chance to reach their potential.

Achieving universal primary education is one of the keys to our global future, and one of the most important investments we could ever make.

And we must also ensure that the world’s children can grow up healthy and strong.

That means seriously investing in effective programs to build health systems and save lives through immunisation.

I am particularly struck by the work of GAVI — the global alliance on immunization — who have worked with European governments to issue bonds to fund the ‘front-loading’ of immunization programs to save lives sooner.

They’re showing how innovative financing can play a crucial role in delivering funds for development.

We must continue to work to eliminate HIV/AIDS, particularly in our region.

Only with good health and the chance of an education for every child will we see true human flourishing in the developing world.


But lifting aid levels and addressing climate change won’t by themselves address global poverty.

The only sure way to bring prosperity to developing countries is to put in place the conditions for economic growth and job creation in the long term.

The G-20 is well placed to pursue those goals, and its 2005 Accord for Sustained Growth is a fine model.

As Kofi Annan has said: “Personally, I do not believe that those people are victims of globalisation. Their problem is not that they are included in the global market but, in most cases, that they are excluded from it.”

Globalisation, growth and poverty reduction go together.

But as well as lifting our aid commitment and encouraging global growth, we need to seize this opportunity to make the G-20 a coalition of the willing for action on climate change.

Time is of the essence.