Remarks at the Major Economies Forum

  • Speech, E&OE, (as delivered)

Thank you John, Ministers and delegates.

It is a pleasure to attend my first Major Economies Forum meeting. Thank you Secretary Kerry for hosting us in New York, and now, following Laurent's comments, I'm certainly looking forward to the Paris conference.

Australia is serious about taking practical steps in response to climate change. We're a pragmatic people so we are committed to working with the countries in this room and beyond to deliver a durable and ambitious climate agreement in 2015.

John, I look forward to the UN Secretary General's Climate Summit on Tuesday.

In terms of ways to drive near term action on climate change, Australia remains committed to reducing emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

This is an ambitious target. Australia will reduce emissions by 22 per cent against business as usual levels. This compares well to other major economies. It has bipartisan support in Australia.

We will meet this target through our Direct Action Plan, which is underpinned by an Emissions Reduction Fund.

This Fund will provide $2.55 billion for Australian businesses to cut emissions without increasing energy costs, and improve productivity. So, $2.55 billion to provide incentives for Australian companies to adopt better practices and technologies that will reduce emissions – innovative, creative, smart thinking will be key.

Australia is committed to helping achieve a global and enduring climate agreement in 2015.

For Australia, it is important that the new agreement encourages economic growth while delivering realistic and effective environmental outcomes.

A new agreement will deliver this objective if there is broad participation. That is, by all countries making commitments to mitigate emissions.

Australia is responsible for around 1.5% of global emissions. We recognise that all countries, especially the major emitters, must take real and comparable action to reduce emissions.

Broad participation will sustain economic growth by safeguarding our respective competitiveness. It is critical that we move beyond the outdated developed and developing country groupings of 1992. These artificial groupings don't reflect reality. They are no longer a viable basis for determining responsibility for climate action, given the changes that have occurred over the last 20 years, and the further significant changes that will occur beyond 2020.

To support broad participation, we need rules in the new agreement to ensure targets are clear, complete and transparent to other parties. There must be flexibility in the terms of the agreement to enable countries to submit targets that are appropriate for their national circumstances.

Australia acknowledges the Warsaw decision inviting countries to put forward commitments well in advance of Paris and in early 2015, if ready to do so.

Australia will consider its post-2020 target as part of the review we will be conducting in 2015 on Australia's international targets and settings.

This review will focus on the extent to which other nations, including the major economies and Australia's trading partners, are taking real and comparable action to reduce emissions.

For Australia, it is important that we see the pledges of the major emitters. And I welcome your comments, John, on the hope that the US and China – as the two largest emitters can agree targets. This will generate real momentum. But I fear that negotiating further arbitrary dates for countries to present their targets risks being counter-productive. We all know that the commitments are to be well in advance of Paris. We need to respect that.

This meeting today has also been asked to consider climate vulnerability and ways to build resilience. I emphasise that ensuring countries prioritise economic growth while also reducing emissions is also the best way to build capacity.

So economic growth and competitiveness must be at the forefront of our thinking as we design the new global agreement. A strong global economy improves our global capacity to address the full range of challenges that climate change presents.

Thank you for the opportunity to put forward Australia's views.

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