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Taking note of Senator Wong's answer on Australia's actions in global climate negotiations

Speeches in Parliament
Christine Milne 16 Nov 2009

Senator MILNE (Tasmania) (3:33 PM) -I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Climate Change and Water (Senator Wong) to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne today relating to the 2009 Barcelona Climate Change Talks.

It related to the global negotiations, and particularly the Barcelona talks leading up to the Copenhagen negotiations in a few weeks time. Whilst we are here in Australia discussing a five to 25 per cent cut, we have the situation where the African countries are spelling out the reality of what is actually needed and what is going on. They, quite rightly, indicated in a press conference in Barcelona:

... the poorest countries demanded that the rich adopt the science-backed target of a 40% overall cut on emissions on 1990 levels. So far, rich countries have pledged an aggregate of less than 10%. The US, the world's second biggest polluter, has pledged to cut around 4% on 1990 levels, or 17% on 2005 levels.

I can say that Australia has got five per cent on the table, with a highly conditional 25.

It was so bad that rich countries have started to try to pile pressure on the Africans not to derail the talks. In fact, the people derailing the talks are the rich countries that are refusing to face up to what the science demands. The Africans staged a walk out of the negotiations, and:

The African countries were supported by all other developing country blocks at the talks. In a series of statements, the G77 plus China group of 130 nations, the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group, as well as Bolivia and several Latin America countries, all broadly backed the African action.

... ... ...

Bruno Sekoli, chair of the LDC group, said: "Africa and Africans are dying now while those who are historically responsible are not taking actions."

Minister Wong cannot get away with trying to suggest that the targets Australia has on the table are ambitious and credible. They are not ambitious and they are nowhere near what the science requires. It requires a 40 per cent cut from developed countries and an aim to get on a trajectory of 350 parts per million. What we have got is nowhere near that, so her targets are not ambitious. Are they credible? No, they are not credible. They are not scientifically credible, and they are not economically credible if she is claiming that they are in any way going to transform the Australian economy.

I also asked about what Australia's role was in these talks. My information is that after this walkout in Barcelona there was a trust-building lunch between the umbrella group, chaired by Australia and African nations, and it ended up again with African nations walking out, saying, ‘We are dying and you are not doing enough.' The Africans told them specifically that people were dying by the minute and ambitious reduction is not negotiable because the survival of millions of people depends on it, and if they were not there to talk about numbers then it was not the right place to be.

It is very clear that the Africans and the least developed nations-some 130 nations out of the 192 signatories to the convention-are not happy with the position Australia has got on the table. I have to say it is Australia's position, together with others of the developed world, that is actually the obstacle to achieving a global outcome in Copenhagen. I think it is fascinating to hear all the argument about the CPRS having to pass to facilitate a global agreement; it is actually going to undermine a global agreement.

That brings to me to my next point. Australia used to talk about the next commitment phase of the Kyoto protocol-but no longer. Now it talks about a new treaty, a different treaty. Australia is acting as a fall guy for the United States in these negotiations to dump the Kyoto protocol altogether: to not ask for a new commitment period for the Kyoto protocol but instead come up with a new treaty which will have no enforcement and compliance mechanisms at all. The architect and the minister were busily talking about Australia's proposal on the table for new architecture to dump the Kyoto protocol. That is something that the developing countries do not want to see, and that is what is occurring. Australia by its actions is undermining the very treaty that the world needs to reduce climate change and to slow down the impacts that we are already suffering.

Question agreed to.

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