Nov 1, 2006

Transcript of Interview, PM – Climate Change

PM – ALP and coalition locked in battle for environment vote

1 November 2006

PM

Alexandra Kirk

MARK COLVIN: The Federal Government and the Opposition are locked in a battle for the environmental vote – with each side accusing the other of being stuck in the past.

Labor is calling the Coalition dinosaurs, and says the Prime Minister doesn’t take climate change seriously.

As Mr Howard announced around 40 projects, worth $60 million, to address global warming, the Government accused Labor of clinging to the old Kyoto Protocol – a scheme it says was designed in Europe last century – and insisted that the climate change debate had "moved on".

From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Even the most sceptical ministers are now on board the climate change express. Both sides of politics have detected in their polling that Australians are really worried about global warming. And that includes older people concerned for their children and grandchildren.

The Prime Minister’s warned his MPs not to be mesmerised by the British Stern review, which warned of an economic catastrophe unless there’s urgent action.

But Mr Howard’s keen to highlight the Government’s environmental credentials, announcing $60 million worth of collaborative projects as part of Australia’s first contribution to the Asia Pacific climate group.

JOHN HOWARD: And a little bit of this debate over the past few weeks has given the impression that all you’ve got to do is put a signature on a bit of paper and hey presto the world stops getting warm.

Not quite as simple as that. I wish it were. It’s not.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Howard says technology’s the key to addressing climate change.

JOHN HOWARD: I don’t think there’s any doubt that in order to make progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions we need to make progress in cleaning up the use of fossil fuels.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government’s spending $8 million on testing the CSIRO’s mobile unit to capture the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, produced by coal-fired power stations.

The Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane says when fully operational, it could lower global greenhouse emissions by two per cent.

But the head of the project, Dr John Wright, says commercial use of mobile carbon catchers is probably 10 years away.

JOHN WRIGHT: Then it probably has to be re-engineered to suit particular power stations. Then it has to go into a demonstration phase. And then once that’s proven, then you can go to a commercial plant.

And that is still looking at least a decade off.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Greens Leader Bob Brown is dismissive of today’s announcements.

BOB BROWN: It’s pathetic, when you see what ought to have been done.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor’s Environment spokesman Anthony Albanese says one-off announcements aren’t enough – insisting on the need for structural change on a global scale.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Just as the dinosaurs were wiped out by the ice age, there’s a need for the dinosaurs in this building to be wiped out politically by the age of global warming.

No one can believe John Howard takes climate change seriously.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In Parliament Labor leader Kim Beazley continued the attack.

KIM BEAZLEY: Prime Minister, isn’t it the case that when the 165 countries which have ratified the Kyoto Protocol meet in Nairobi this month to further the practical implementation of Kyoto between 2008 and 2012, Australia and the United States will not have a vote?

JOHN HOWARD: Mr Speaker, there will be two meetings in Nairobi, and Mr Speaker the meeting about the future, the meeting about the new Kyoto, will in fact be chaired by Australia.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Anthony Albanese says it’s the second series of meetings that will decide the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol and the Government’s refusal to ratify Kyoto has relegated Australia to observer status.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: By Australia being on the outside, not able to vote, not able to participate in those discussions in Nairobi, we are doing ourselves a great disservice. Because India will be there, China will be there, but we won’t be around the table during that debate.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Prime Minister says his Government would consider signing what he’s termed a new Kyoto.

Mr Albanese says he’s searched the Internet for "new Kyoto" and found just one entry – a hotel.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And what comes up is a review, and the review says this: Stuffy rooms would choose another.

It says the worst aspect of the room was that the window didn’t open, and there is no way, wait for it, to cool the room down …

(laughter)

… or get some fresh air. They only have a heater, which works really well, blowing out only hot air.

MARK COLVIN: Labor’s environment spokesman Anthony Albanese ending Alexandra Kirk’s report.