Doorstop post release of draft agreement, COP21

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: As you are aware, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius released a new draft text of the proposed agreement this afternoon. Since that time our experts have been looking at this closely. I have chaired a meeting of the Umbrella Group, that is the likeminded non-EU developed countries, and gained first reactions from them.

I have then met with Foreign Minister Fabius and discussed the Umbrella Group's reactions and gained some understanding from him as to the process over the next few days. Clearly this is the beginning of the end of the negotiations and there is still a lot of work to be done.

Foreign Minister Fabius made it clear that in his view there are three major issues still to be worked through. In relation to finance, in relation to what's called differentiation – the developed/developing country approach – and also the ambition, that is, how we build on this agreement in the future. Those are not the only issues but they are three significant matters that need to be resolved.

Our negotiators will be working through the night and we expect that there will be another text tomorrow and that's probably going to be the second last draft. The final draft will then build on today and tomorrow's texts.

So I'm still hopeful that we will see an ambitious, enduring agreement where all countries – whether they be developed or developing – play a role and take action and I think that given that at least 185 countries have put forward targets, there's a lot of activity. I think that there's a very strong will for an agreement to be concluded and all parties appear to be ready to work throughout the night over the next couple of days to ensure that that's achieved.

JOURNALIST: Minister, what were some of the reactions of the Umbrella Group to this text?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia's reaction was reflected in the reactions of the other members and that is there is progress being made, there are some areas where a lot more work needs to be done but we think that we can focus on the three big issues identified by Laurent Fabius but not lose sight of others.

So there's progress that's been made. In some areas there's been no change to the text but clearly negotiations are still going on behind the scenes, and in some areas we think that there's a lot of detail still to be worked through. There is still a whole range of options you will have seen in the text, there's still a lot of options there, but the three big political issues are ambition, differentiation and finance.

JOURNALIST: In the options on transparency there's still an option for completely different systems in developed and developing countries to record their emissions. Is that a redline issue for Australia given what we've said before and are there any options in the text that are redline issues?

JULIE BISHOP: That's a very hard-line position but there are other bridging options that have been put forward. Clearly Australia's view is that all countries need to take action, that there should be a level playing field and that's what we'll be looking for. I think the hard-line position has been put, but many other options are still to be worked through. I'm expecting that there will be a compromise that ensures all countries, whether they are developed or developing, are able to take action under this agreement.

JOURNALIST: Under the options we're aiming for 1.5 degree limit is still an option. Is there any hope of it surviving?

JULIE BISHOP: I hosted and chaired a meeting of the Pacific island nations today. Clearly they are keen to see a reference to one-and-a-half degrees in the text and Australia has been championing that on their behalf. Our position is that we should be aiming for well below two degrees but there should be appropriate reference to one-and-a-half degrees and that's what the Pacific islands are looking for.

JOURNALIST: There's a press conference with members of the Umbrella Group, the G77, AOSIS and other negotiating blocks. What's your reaction to that, do you think that will shift the tide at all and was Australia invited to that and are we supportive of that group?

JULIE BISHOP: We are chairing the Umbrella Group.

JOURNALIST: Not the Umbrella Group, I mean the collection of different countries that are giving this conference now. That is the US, Norway, island states, Mexico.

JULIE BISHOP: We are all sharing information and different nations are attending different groups. We have just had the Umbrella Group meeting. There will be another meeting with the COP Presidency. There are more meetings with the EU, I know that they are planned. So we're all sharing information and I think that that's what we are going to see over the next 24 – 48 hours, that different groups will be consolidating their positions and then sharing their ideas and that's the kind of consultation that I'm expecting to take place.

JOURNALIST: I went to the first couple of minutes of that group and the general view was that the agreement as drafted was not ambitious enough. That was the first take on it. Is that an assessment that you share?

JULIE BISHOP: Well that's what Foreign Minister Fabius said. The three big issues are finance, differentiation and ambition. Clearly Australia wants to see an ambitious agreement. We've said that from the outset, and so this is a startling point for an end negotiation. I was not expecting to see an agreement that we would be able to sign off on. This is a draft that encapsulates the views of many different groups and as you can see there is a series of options in some of the major articles. So there's still a lot of work to be done to ensure that we can come up with an agreement that all can sign on to and that's the plan. And of course we have to have an agreement that the major emitters – the United States and China as the largest emitters in the world – they have to be able to sign on to this agreement. Clearly there's still a lot of work to be done. We have a challenging couple of days ahead of us.

JOURNALIST: Could I just clarify whether Australia was actually invited to be part of this Coalition for Ambition, or whatever it's called?

JULIE BISHOP: I'd have to check on that. We've got so many invitations to attend so many events and so many groupings, that I'd have to check on that.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you further on what you said earlier today in your speech about looking in the future to engage more with international carbon markets. Is this something that would be connected with any domestic policy changes?

JULIE BISHOP: No. I didn't say that. This is about international carbon markets and there is a New Zealand-led initiative that Australia has indicated that it will sign on to. It's a non-binding declaration, and it's about transparency and integrity should nations engage in international carbon markets. Now Australia is having a review of our domestic climate policies in 2017, and the issue of international units will be reviewed at that time, but this is about the integrity and transparency of international carbon markets.

JOURNALIST: Would that help facilitate if Australia were to engage more beyond 2017, this declaration.

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is yet to review our take-up of the international units. It's on the table, and that's what we'll be doing in 2017. The whole idea of a declaration as I understand it, because the text hasn't been released – it won't be released until the end of this conference – is to ensure transparency and integrity and credibility of the international carbon markets.

JOURNALIST: There seems to be lots of groups forming and coalitions forming and some people are worried that this is going to end up in a watered-down agreement.

JULIE BISHOP: Well I'm not seeing any signs of that at this stage. Of course there are different groupings because there are many issues to be discussed, but there are three major issues at this stage. And that is on ambition – that is how we deal with these issues in the future – on differentiation – that is the developing/developed country issue – and then of course on finance. So they are three big issues and different groups are meeting to discuss them. But there are many other articles and aspects of this agreement where we need to find what's been called landing zones. And I'm still hopeful that we have time to negotiate a position that all countries can sign on to.

JOURNALIST: Specifically, do you think this will be inclusive for the small island nations who have now called for 1.5 degrees.

JULIE BISHOP: There will be a reference I'm sure to 1.5 in the text. I hosted and chaired a meeting of the small island developing states from the Pacific this morning and they are looking for acknowledgement of the challenges that they face. And I think an appropriate reference to 1.5 degrees would be the way to go. Of course Australia's position is that we're aiming for well below two degrees, but we have supported an appropriate reference to one-and-a-half degrees.

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