The International Climate Change Agenda

Speech at the CSIRO Climate Science Meeting - by Justin Brown Australian Ambassador for the Environment

5 October 2004, Melbourne


It gives me great pleasure to speak to you on the international climate change agenda.

As a world-leading research organisation, CSIRO is well-positioned to contribute to the climate change debate both domestically and internationally.

CSIRO's climate change research is highly valued in the policy making arena. As international discussions move forward, CSIRO and similar research organisations will retain an important role in informing policy makers of vital details.

In my comments today I will:

My comments are more restricted than usual today, given the Government is in caretaker mode.

Current state of play in international climate negotiations

Multilateral climate change negotiations are at a crossroads. While there is reasonably solid consensus on the science, there is as yet no international political consensus on how to address the challenge posed by climate change.

Seven years after finalising the Kyoto Protocol - it is still not in force.

As many of you would know, US or Russian ratification is needed before the Protocol can enter into force.

The US has indicated that it will not ratify Kyoto under any circumstances.

There is less clarity about Russian intentions, although recent developments suggest some prospect of ratification, although timing remains uncertain.

This uncertainty around the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force has caused multilateral climate negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to reach near inertia.

There is no doubt that the Kyoto Protocol represented a good faith effort by the international community to deal with climate change.

There is, however, increasing international recognition that even if Russia does ratify - the Kyoto Protocol will not deliver a comprehensive solution to the problem. ABARE estimates the Protocol will result in negligible reductions in global greenhouse gases.

[Graph of where each country is tracking on Kyoto targets]

[Graph of future CO2 projections - Non Annex 1 vs Annex 1]

So, in addition to Australia, major players - including the EU, Japan, the US, many business organisations, think tanks and research institutes - are beginning to look beyond the initial Kyoto period of 2008-2012.

Whether or not the Kyoto Protocol enters into force, we expect international negotiations on the future international architecture to start to develop pace towards the end of 2005.

Australia is an active participant in this debate, and it will be a prominent issue for the incoming government.

Even so, history tells us that we should not expect quick or easy outcomes to international negotiations on future frameworks. The reality is that they will probably take some time.

In the meantime, one issue on the international climate change agenda that is gathering momentum, particularly from developing countries, is cooperation on adaptation to climate change.

The nascent international discussions on adaptation reveal that this is an issue that warrants greater policy and research efforts.

International Climate Change Initiatives

While the multilateral negotiations have slowed, there has been an expansion in activity in other configurations.

So, regardless of the future of the Kyoto Protocol, momentum is building and ideas are beginning to emerge from various quarters.

A future international response to climate change may involve a variety of approaches involving multiple players.

As one grand, overarching international instrument is unlikely, the overall international response to climate change must necessarily contain a tapestry of initiatives.

In the future, a consolidated international political agreement may follow rather than lead other developments.

Australia's International Approach

Internationally, Australia's objective has been an effective global response engaging all major emitters. [Graph on major emitters]

[Chart mapping international involvements - multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral]

Bilateral climate partnerships

Developing bilateral climate partnerships with the United States, the European Union, New Zealand and China has been important to meeting this objective.

I would encourage CSIRO to continue this close and practical engagement in these bilateral partnerships.

International technology initiatives

Technology is playing a decisive role in meeting the challenge of climate change and its role will become increasingly important.

International engagement in international technology initiatives is crucial for Australia in:

Australia's international technology collaborations provide promising opportunities for major emissions reductions in the future.

International technology collaborations also provide promising opportunities for increased CSIRO engagement - both with overseas counterparts and Australian policymakers.

There may be scope for CSIRO contribution and engagement in similar initiatives that promote low emission technologies.

In September Australia hosted the second Ministerial meeting of the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum here in Melbourne. Ministers agreed on a roadmap to progress the Forum's aims of cooperative research and development for the separation, capture, transportation and storage of carbon dioxide.

Australia is also engaged in bilateral energy arrangements with key trading partners, including Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, the United States, Indonesia and India, which include technology collaboration elements.

Australia is also an active participant in the APEC Energy Working Group that facilitates energy technology development, exchange, application and deployment.

As many of you will know, Australia is a party to fifteen International Energy Agency implementing agreements

Engagement in these international forums help Australian policy makers stay ahead of the game - or at least keep up with it!

Over the next year or so, it will be important to ensure the information from these networks is available and flowing through to negotiators.

Domestic Action

Managing climate change risks is a challenge for all countries.

None of us can do it alone - certainly not relatively small emitters like Australia.

But action at the domestic level can help to build the confidence among parties necessary to underpin effective action at the global level.

Domestically, Australia has committed nearly $1.7 billion in climate change measures across the economy, including the energy, transport and agricultural sectors.

As in the international sphere, technology is a focus for domestic climate change action.

Targeted investments have already been made to develop the technologies that will deliver a vibrant economy with a lower greenhouse signature.

Technology improvements will be a key to delivering large-scale reductions in emissions in a way that protects and promotes Australia's long-term economic prosperity.

Indeed, Australia could meet a large part of its energy needs today through low or zero emissions sources of energy.

The current Government's strategy for technology has been to try and fill this gap by increasing the range of options and lowering the cost of meeting future greenhouse objectives through

Energy White Paper

The Energy White Paper provides the most recent policy context for Australia's current climate change approach. The Paper outlines policies to reduce greenhouse emissions while enhancing energy security, and recommends aggressively developing low emission technologies, such as carbon sequestration and clean coal, and promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The Energy White Paper focuses on reducing the costs of development and deployment of technology and includes:


In highlighting the different initiatives being pursued domestically and internationally, I have tried to paint a picture of a plethora of promising - if decentralised - efforts to address climate change.

A comprehensive international agreement on climate change - a subject of such complexity and uncertainty - remains a major challenge and one that still appears a longer term prospect.

This does not discount the value of international collaboration - being an inherently global problem, climate change requires a global solution.

Whatever form climate change solutions take, Australia's fundamental objective is to ensure that understanding of the threat posed by climate change and policy responses are based upon sound analysis and sound science.

CSIRO clearly has a major contribution to make in meeting this objective.

I hope CSIRO continues to play an active role both the international and domestic climate change agenda - and that our agencies continue to cooperate closely.

I hope my remarks will assist your consideration of the future directions for CSIRO Climate.