October 27, 2009
KEVIN Rudd has declared the road ahead to a deal at the Copenhagen climate change talks will be "rough" and revealed Australia will now take over control & play a key role.
The Australian' Prime Minister has told Labor MPs at a caucus briefing today that Denmark has proposed Australia play a leadership role at the conference, acting as a “friend of the chair” for the purposes of negotiating agreement at the meeting.
Mr Rudd has also revealed “difficult” negotiations are playing out at officials levels and that the deadlock over a carbon pollution reduction scheme remained the most significant debate looming over the final three weeks of Parliament.
The government is pressing the Coalition to cut a deal on an emissions trading scheme ahead of talks in Copenhagen, arguing it would assist Australia's negotiating position if Mr Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong arrived at the meeting with an ETS agreement for Australia in place.
Australia will join Mexico and the UN secretary-general as a friend of the chair in helping to build consensus over greenhouse gas emissions targets at the meeting.
Mr Rudd told Parliament the decision for Australia to act as a “friend of the chair” followed a request from the Danish Prime Minister.
“Prime Minister Rasmussen - as chair of the Conference of Parties - has asked a number of leaders to work closely with him in the lead up to Copenhagen,’’ he said.
“The leaders engaged by Prime Minister Rasmussen will conduct regular discussions in the lead up to Copenhagen focused on delivering effective action on climate change.
“Leaders' engagement is critical to increase political momentum towards Copenhagen; to capture commitments already made in an ambitious and comprehensive political agreement at Copenhagen; and to guide ongoing negotiations towards a rapid completion of a global treaty.”
Mr Rudd has also used today's party room meeting to accuse the Coalition of playing “dog whistle” politics over claims asylum-seekers are diseased or potential terrorists, stressing Labor will continue to take a hard line on people-smugglers but offer a “humane” response to asylum-seekers.
In a call to action on climate change ahead of the Copenhagen talks, Mr Rudd also raised a parliamentary report that today warned rising sea levels threatened thousands of kilometres of coastline as more evidence Australia needed to act.
But the Coalition has argued that Parliament should not decide on targets for an emissions trading scheme until it is clear from the Copenhagen talks what action the world plans to take.
Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull has however offered to negotiate in good faith with the government if it chooses to reintroduce legislation on an ETS before the December talks.
Earlier today, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong conceded an emissions trading scheme won't stop sea levels rising in Australia without global action.
“This is one of the consequences of climate change and we simply can't ignore it,” she told Radio 2UE.
“It confirms the sorts of impacts that we risk. (But) It has to be part of a global solution, we've always said that.
“It is the case that scientists vary in terms of the extent of sea level rise.”
Asked if the government would move to block future coastal developments, Senator Wong said “we need to take a cooperative and coordinated approach”.
“Obviously what governments need to do at all levels is to act on this risk. These are scientific assessments of potential risks and we would be I think irresponsible as politicians to pretend these risks don't exist. That's why we've got to act now. Because of course we know the impacts will worsen if we don't act.”
Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce, a climate change sceptic, dismissed suggestions the report is evidence the Senate should support an emissions trading scheme.
“If we end up with an ETS the sea levels will still rise, you will just have a massive tax when you try and rebuild,” Senator Barnaby Joyce said.