Australian Delegation at COP18

La Trobe Institute for Social and Environmental Sustainability

Blog No.9 – Day 8, COP18. Doha, Qatar. Monday, 3 December

By Adjunct Professor Simon Molesworth

Australian Delegation

Each day since arriving in Doha I have attended the Australian Government delegation’s briefing that is provided for Australians attending the COP. As in previous years, there are many familiar faces amongst the attendees, too serious to be considered COP groupies, but nevertheless where first greetings incorporate a joking reference to the number of COPs attended. The range of attendees includes the well-known environmental NGOs; the environmental and resource writers for the Australian press; a wide range of peak industry associations, including the resource sector, primary and secondary industry; representatives of peak professional associations, such as planners and engineers, and a smattering of academics. Although the faces change, each year there is always a line of those wearing the bright blue tee-shirt of the Australian youth coalition concerned with climate change.

The Australian Government negotiators (from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) are inevitably cooperative and friendly, informing us of as much of the inside story of the negotiations as they can, but always strictly in accordance with the caveat that we do not repeat anything heard on a confidential basis, lest an unwise reporting of someone’s observations jeopardises the delicate and strategic negotiations underway in the dozens of UNFCCC party conference rooms throughout the QNCC. All present are invited to put questions to the Australian negotiating team and I have never found them anything other than receptive to helpful suggestions and comments. So inevitably these sessions, and the many other conversations that go on in the margins of the conference, embrace none too subtle lobbying in an effort to influence the Australian position at the negotiating table.  

This year our new Ambassador for Climate Change, Justin Lee, heads the team in the first week while one or other of the Australian ministers always heads the team in the second week. This year the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC, MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Innovation, arrived today to lead during the High Level negotiation period. The tempo of the second week is always very different to the first week. The number of those attending the briefing increases and the representation of each group tends to move to a more senior representative, as the CEOs fly in to coincide with the headier negotiations and the presence of the Minister. Clearly there is much more tension palpable during the second week.
Mark Dreyfus gave an interview to UN Climate Change TV today, explaining the Australian Government position. He came across as well informed and confident of the correctness of the Australian position on each issue.

He was quite “upbeat” regarding the prospects of securing good outcomes from the COP. Following the UN TV interview, Mark came and inspected the INTO exhibition booth and was photographed to record the visit. He was most interested to hear of La Trobe University’s support and noted the stand with our Institute’s Sustainability Report on display.

In an Australian Government joint media statement from Minister Combet’s office, released in advance of Mark Dreyfus’ arrival in Doha the following was said:
“Australia is taking part at Doha having implemented the Clean Energy Future plan, successfully linked its emission trading scheme with Europe and poised to join a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol,” said Mr Dreyfus.

“The commitment to sign Kyoto 2 is contingent upon countries around the world taking action on climate change and continued progress on a new agreement,” said the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet.

At the Durban COP last year, all countries agreed to negotiate a new global agreement by 2015, to apply from 2020.

“In Doha, countries are starting work on the new agreement which will cover all major economies, including the United States, China, the European Union, India, Russia, Japan and South Korea,” said Mr Dreyfus.

“Negotiations will progress steadily over the next 4 years. This will consolidate international commitments from 90 countries, which produce 80% of global carbon pollution, to cut emissions by 2020. The vast range of domestic action to price carbon pollution by individual countries will continue to grow,” he said.

“From next year, more than 50 national or sub-national regions will have emissions trading schemes or a carbon price, covering a combined population of around 1.1 billion people. Contrary to false claims made by the Leader of the Opposition, Australia is not acting alone,” said Mr Combet.

During the climate talks, Mr Dreyfus will meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, chair the Umbrella Group, and make a special presentation on Australia’s pioneering savanna burning methodology, recently certified under the Carbon Farming Initiative.

“This is a massive, collective effort to slow down climate change and Australia will keep working as constructively as possible over the next months and years, at home and abroad, to responsibly manage the challenge that confronts us,” said Mr Dreyfus