Topics: Montreal Protocol, Paris climate summit, Green Climate Fund, Asia-Pacific Rainforest Recovery Plan
Environment Minister Greg Hunt was at the meeting in Dubai, he joins us from London now. Greg Hunt, welcome back to Breakfast.
Good morning Fran.
So you've just been at this meeting of the Montreal Protocol in Dubai – one environmental agreement that has really worked, palpably worked.
But fixing the ozone layer it turns out has not helped the climate, it's created this other problem with the HFCs.
Is it possible to phase out HFC gases? What's the challenge here?
Yes it is possible. Australia has been the co-chair of 197 countries – Australia and China were elected as the two to help lead the discussions over the last few days.
We are making real progress towards a phase down of HFCs.
And the reason why this is important is you've got to help both the ozone layer and help reduce CO2 equivalent emissions.
And these HFCs have very, very high CO2 equivalents.
So in other words, in fixing one problem, you don't want to run into the issue of creating another.
So I would say that the Montreal Protocol has arguably been the most effective environmental treaty ever.
Right now I think we are on the cusp of a breakthrough, led by Australia, which will see this next round of gases the subject of an international agreement.
So we'll replace hydrofluorocarbons with what?
So what we go to now is a range of what are sometimes called natural refrigerants.
What are these gases used for? They're used for refrigerants, for air conditioning.
There are other compounds that are being looked at and developed.
Our own Australian industry says they think that we can actually make a transition over a decade and a half.
We were originally looking at two decades, or more than that. They think we can make a pretty rapid transition.
And that means new gases are being developed, new compounds are being developed for refrigerants, for fire retardants, for air conditioners.
And this is something that will go around the world. And we've already phased out two major classes of ozone gases.
We think we can get an 85 per cent reduction in these HFCs.
Okay. Well that would…
And this has a huge impact in reducing the total sums – CO2 equivalents – and therefore helps us with the Kyoto protocol as well.
The Montreal Protocol, as you've said, has been a very – a successful example of global co-operation in a treaty, in an environmental treaty.
Which brings us to the UN Paris Climate Summit, which is coming up.
This week overseas you said – I read some comments of yours – that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will have – and I'm quoting here – some prospective and constructive things to propose on day one of the Paris Summit.
Is Australia going to increase its post 2020 targets? Is that what the PM's going to be announcing, or something else?
No, look, nations are not re-negotiating their targets for Paris.
Ours is a very, very ambitious target, it's the largest reduction in per capita terms of any G20 country.
It will see Australia drop from 14th to 25th amongst the list of largest emitters, if we implement it – and we will. And so those are quite profound effects.
What we're looking at now is work in terms of cooperation, whether it's with regards to soil carbons, work in relation to rainforest protection.
And I won't steal the Prime Minister's thunder, but other countries are extremely interested in the work of forest protection.
It's not just about preventing what goes up, it's also about ensuring that we bring CO2 down. And the forests of the world are a fundamental part of that equation.
Okay, so it sounds like some kind of a global cooperation.
On that front, this week we spoke with the Foreign Minister for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum.
He described for us the effects climate change is having right now on his country with inundations and droughts, and salty water infiltrating their soil, communities being displaced.
He wants Australia to do more to help the countries suffering with the effects of climate change in the Pacific, in our own backyard.
And he's calling for solidarity – bit like the Montreal plan really – based on the Marshall Plan from the Second World War.
So affected nations like his could deal with the effects of climate change – the world comes to their rescue. Do you welcome such an initiative?
Well in fact Australia has supported the Green Climate Fund. So we've provided 200 million dollars to that…
…Bob Brown Bank, isn't that what we dubbed it? The Bob Brown Bank?
No, no, this is a different body.
The Green Climate Fund is a structure which has been set up out of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
In particular, this is about ensuring that there's assistance for countries which are struggling with the effects of climate change, either now or increasingly in the future.
And we're looking at reduction of emissions as well – so it's both dealing with the effects of the problem, and most significantly helping countries to avoid the problem by reducing emissions, especially in the developing world.
We have already convened an Asia-Pacific Rainforest Recovery Plan, and that will not only help reduce emissions, but it helps with the regional environment and the sustainability for many communities.
And that is one way we're taking a leadership role right across the Asia-Pacific. And that work's been recognised in terms of what Australia's done.
Minister, thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.
Thanks a lot Fran, take care.