Social Action Office


(This is the text of a letter received by one of SAO's partners from the Leader of The Opposition, the Hon Kim Beazley MP. It provides an insight into the ALP's position on the Kyoto Protocol.)

9 July 2001

The Kyoto Protocol is the result of a decade of international negotiations and should not be lightly set aside. The Howard Government has used the announcement by President Bush on the United States's policy on Kyoto, and the attitude of developing nations to what should be their obligations, as excuses to walk away from the international process of advancing actively the Kyoto agreement. It is clear that under the Howard Government, Australia will not work to advance the Kyoto Protocol.

Labor recognises that Australia's own target under the Protocol is a reasonable one, and that the outstanding issues in climate change negotiations are unlikely to significantly impact the effort required to meet Australia's target.

Australia's support will be important for the protocol to be advanced and for it to come into force and it is critical that Australia takes a more active leadership role in international climate change negotiations. The Kyoto Protocol is not dead and Australia should not be beholden to the United States's position. We must exercise independent judgement.

Of course, any effective international regime will ultimately require the participation of all emitters, including developing countries. Should Labor be elected this year, our policy will be to actively work to advance the Kyoto process and to get all parties - Australia included - committed to ratifying the protocol after the outstanding issues have been resolved, hopefully in order for it to come into force in 2002.

Labor is also committed to domestic action to meet our Kyoto target. Labor will halt broadscale land clearing, which is responsible for significant emissions, and will introduce a greenhouse trigger under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Labor supported the recent passage of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000. Although not perfect, the measure represents a start and an important boost to a fledgling renewable energy industry.

In the debate on the Bill, we expressed our concern about a number of issues, and we flagged the use of native forest biomass as an issue that requires further attention. As a result of Labor amendments to the legislation, there are now strong disclosure requirements in place and a requirement for a formal review that will scrutinise all environmental impacts of the measure, including the extent to which native forest biomass has been utilised.

The Howard Government has failed the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to grow unabated. The much heralded Natural Heritage Trust has failed to address the continuing decline of our rural landscapes, has hidden substantial cuts to core environmental funding, has resulted in massive cost shifting and has achieved little apart from awareness raising.

The Howard Government, with the support of the Australian Democrats, passed legislation enabling the Environment Minister to delegate its environmental powers to inconsistent and ineffective state regimes. It has allowed uranium mining in a World Heritage area and is building a new nuclear reactor in suburban Sydney.

In contrast, Labor is committed to re-establishing Australia as an international leader in environmental protection, and will pursue environmental diplomacy as a key element of its international agenda. We will restore the integrity of the World Heritage Commission, which the Howard Government has undermined in its desire to allow the Jabiluka mine.

Labor will seek long term protection for the Kakadu World Heritage area in the interests of both the environment and the indigenous peoples. Labor has consistently opposed the Jabiluka mine and the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights.

Labor is committed to overhaul the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to ensure that the Commonwealth take full responsibility for issues of national environmental significance. In addition, Labor will establish an Office of Sustainable Development in Prime Minister and Cabinet to ensure a whole of government response to systemic environmental issues, such as salinity and climate change.

Labor will develop a national strategy on salinity and natural resources management. Under this strategy, Labor will set targets and caps for key environmental issues, including a target to halt the further decline in the quality and extent of native vegetation in Australia by 2005.

Labor will establish an Office of the Commissioner for the Environment. This commissioner will head an independent body charged with monitoring, assessing and honestly communicating environmental performance and progress towards sustainability.

Thank you for giving me the the chance to address your concerns.

Kind regards

Kim C Beazley
Leader of The Opposition
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

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