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Climate change

International cooperation on climate change

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The 1992 UNFCCC is the primary framework for international climate change cooperation. Its overarching objective is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous human induced interference with the climate system. The Convention is a framework document augmented and updated by subsequent agreements, including the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015 and was ratified by enough countries for it to enter into force less than a year later – a record in international law. This historic agreement set in place a durable and dynamic framework requiring all Parties to take climate action.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries have agreed:

  • A global goal to limit average temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to keep warming below 1.5°C
  • All countries will make nationally determined contributions to reduce emissions, and review their efforts every five years, to build ambition over time
  • Robust transparency and accountability rules that will provide confidence in countries' actions and track progress towards targets
  • The importance of adaptation and resilience to climate impacts
  • Developing countries will receive financial, technological and capacity building support.

Australia ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016. Under the Paris Agreement, Australia has committed to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 (known as Australia's Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, or NDC). This is an ambitious target, representing a halving of emissions per person and a two-thirds reduction per unit of GDP. The Government will also develop a long-term emissions reduction strategy in 2020 that will explore emissions reduction opportunities and implications across all major sectors of the economy. Consistent with the timelines of the Paris Agreement, we will undertake five-yearly 'review and refine' cycles to ensure our policies are on track to meet our 2030 target.

A comprehensive set of rules to implement the Paris Agreement was adopted at the 2018 UN Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland. This includes a common transparency framework that will allow all Parties to report to their fullest ability, which will provide mutual trust and confidence to drive collective action. Rules on international carbon markets are due to be concluded at the 26th UN Climate Conference to be held in the United Kingdom in 2021.

The Kyoto Protocol

Australia ratified the UNFCCC's Kyoto Protocol in 2007. The Kyoto Protocol binds developed country Parties to targets to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Doha Amendment, which provides for a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period, has not yet been ratified by enough parties to enter into force. Australia ratified the Doha Amendment in 2016.

Under its first commitment period, from 2008 to 2012, Australia adopted a target of limiting Australia's emissions growth over the first commitment period to 108 per cent of 1990 levels. Australia's target under the second commitment period, from 2013 to 2020, is 99.5 per cent of 1990 levels.

Australia met and exceeded our first commitment period target under the Kyoto Protocol and is on track to meet and beat our second. Emissions per capita, and the emissions intensity of the Australian economy, are at their lowest levels in 29 years.

Cancun Agreements

The Cancun Agreements were adopted in 2010 and run in parallel with the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period. Countries put forward nationally determined 2020 emissions reduction targets, or pledges, in the form of nationally appropriate mitigation actions. Australia's Cancun pledge is to reduce emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, which is consistent with Australia's second Kyoto Protocol commitment.

Montreal Protocol

The 1987 Montreal Protocol addresses the depletion of the ozone layer by harmful substances such as hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions – powerful synthetic greenhouse gases widely used in refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers and insulating foam. Australia was among the early countries to sign up to the Montreal Protocol and has often gone well beyond its requirements. Australia played a leading role in negotiating Parties' agreement in 2016 to reduce HFC emissions by 85 per cent.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO)

International civil aviation and maritime transport represents a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, which are not directly addressed under the UNFCCC. International aviation accounts for around 1.3 per cent of global emissions and international shipping around 2.2 per cent. Australia works with other countries to address these emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO).

In 2013, ICAO agreed to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020 through a basket of measures, including a market-based measure, improved fuel efficiency and sustainable alternative fuels. Australia has supported ICAO to adopt a Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) requiring airlines to purchase offsets if industry emissions increase above 2020 levels, and welcomed the adoption in 2018 of rules for its operation. Australia will participate in the CORSIA from its commencement in 2021.

In 2018, the IMO adopted an initial strategy on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships. Parties agreed that emissions should peak as soon as possible and to reduce total annual emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2050 compared to 2008, while at the same time, pursuing efforts towards phasing them out entirely. Parties have identified candidate short-, mid- and long-term emissions reduction measures with possible timelines. These would build on the mandatory energy efficiency measures which have been in place since 2011.

Mission Innovation

Australia joined Mission Innovation, a group of countries committed to doubling governmental investment in clean energy innovation over five years, at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. Mission Innovation members are collaborating around a set of innovation challenges to accelerate technology breakthroughs in priority areas: smart grids; off-grid access to electricity; carbon capture and storage; sustainable biofuels; converting sunlight; clean energy materials; affordable heating and cooling of buildings; and hydrogen.

International Solar Alliance (ISA)

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was launched at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, aiming to promote the roll out of solar technology, particularly in countries that have high solar resources but under-developed electricity access. Australia is a founding member of the ISA and has committed to share its knowledge and expertise for capacity building in other ISA Members. For example, Australia is offering free tailored expert advice, webinars and training, and a library of tools and resources for policy development through the Clean Energy Solutions Centre.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Australia's engagement in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports the development of high quality Assessment Reports and associated Special Reports, which will be a key input into the Paris Agreement's Global Stocktake - the first of which will occur in 2023. Our support also provides opportunities for Australia to showcase our world leading research and modelling expertise.

Action on Rainforests

Australia has taken a leading role in building support for action to slow, halt and reverse the loss of rainforests. At the first Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit in Sydney in 2014, Australia led the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Partnership. The Partnership promotes action and provides a platform to progress activities to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in the Asia-Pacific Region. Biennial summits bring together leaders in government, the private sector, research and civil society. Following the inaugural Summit in Sydney, Australia, a second summit was held in Brunei Darussalam in August 2016 and a third in Indonesia in April 2018.

Action on Marine Ecosystems

Australia launched the International Partnership for Blue Carbon at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. The Partnership raises awareness about the important role of coastal blue carbon ecosystems in climate action and strengthens co-operation between governments, research bodies and intergovernmental organisations to protect and restore these ecosystems. To further this work, DFAT is partnering with the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources; CSIRO; Conservation International and others to protect and manage coastal blue carbon ecosystems in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. This includes a $6 million Pacific Blue Carbon program providing support in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. This program is strengthening blue carbon expertise and data in the Pacific, supporting its integration into national greenhouse gas accounting and climate policy, and encouraging public and private sector investment. We are also supporting the Indian Ocean Rim Association/CSIRO Blue Carbon Hub based in Perth.

Healthy coral reef ecosystems are critical for maintaining rich biodiversity, providing livelihoods and food security from fisheries, revenue from tourism, erosion prevention and coastal protection from extreme weather events. Coral reefs are rapidly degrading, with climate change being their single greatest threat globally. Australia has highly-regarded expertise in coral reef science and resilience-based management, combined with a longstanding record of sharing our knowledge internationally.

Australia supports the work of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) to make the world's coral reefs more resilient, complemented by Australia's world leading Reef 2050 Plan for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. Australia, through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, is a founding member of ICRI and is co-chairing (with Monaco and Indonesia) the ICRI Secretariat until July 2021. Australia has provided $1.3 million to build the capacity of ICRI's developing country members  so they can better manage and protect their coral reefs. DFAT also provided $1 million to the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) to lead the coordination of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and the production of a 2020 Report on the Global Status of Coral Reefs.

We are also working with AIMS on a $3 million DFAT-funded project to develop an application of innovative technology that will enable coral reef images to be analysed at speed via an algorithm. The project, which will initially be trialled in Fiji and Palau, addresses a key challenge of coral reef managers, enabling them to quickly and effectively assess the condition of reefs and take informed and timely management actions.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition

Australia is a partner in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which brings together more than 100 partners to reduce and avoid emissions of fast acting pollutants, such as methane, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon.

Bilateral initiatives

Australia holds regular climate change discussions with other countries at ministerial and senior officials level, to share information, develop best practice and build joint efforts. Some examples of practical cooperation include:

  • Collaboration with key partners on hydrogen produced from renewable energy, including opportunities for trade and investment along associated production value chains. A recent example is Australia’s collaboration with Germany in this area.
  • The Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain Pilot Project is a world-first project to produce hydrogen in Victoria from brown coal and export it to Japan. Hydrogen is a fuel of the future and, when coupled with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which would be integrated for the commercial project phase, has the potential to provide a secure and clean source of energy as countries tackle the challenge of meeting national and international emissions reduction targets.
  • Australia has committed $3.87 million to support a unique climate change project to export Australian indigenous fire management practices. This project is being piloted in Botswana and has the potential to expand into other countries. This project is expected to bring multifaceted climate, environment and development benefits, and promotes the integration of knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples in responding to climate change.
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