Topics: World Parks Congress 2014
To Uncle Allan and the people and clans of the Eora Nation, we thank you for allowing us onto your land. To the people of the world, we welcome you to Sydney, Australia.
And let me say this – to the Presidents and Prime Ministers of four nations, to the Ministers of thirty nations, to the delegates from over 160 nations and the more than 5000 people here today, and in particular to the traditional owners of this great land and the other great lands represented here and those that came by varka today, you represent the hope of the future for our parks, for our oceans, for our great savannah lands, for our forests and for our young people.
We thank you for coming to Sydney today.
Against that background a decade ago, the incomparable Nelson Mandela challenged us all to shape the future. We cannot replace Nelson Mandela, but we can honour him, and we can honour him with the commitments we make for the great protected areas of the planet for the next 30 and 50 and 100 years.
But we also honour him with the actions of 1000 different steps to clean up individual lakes and individual rivers, individual parks and to protect individual forests and areas of beauty and importance, and in doing that, we honour the spirit of Nelson Mandela, of Rachel Carson, of Chico Mendes, and of so many others whose names are not known but who, in each of our countries, has stood for nature.
More than this as host nation, it falls to us to offer some important early commitments because this conference is a success already, but it will matter if we all make commitments for the future and then deliver them.
In terms of clean land, I can announce tonight for the first time that Australia, with our latest Indigenous Protected Areas, has just achieved the IUCN goal of 17 per cent of our lands in protected areas.
And what’s exciting is that it is the traditional owners that have taken the lead in expanding those protected areas. But again, more than that, it’s not just as President Jiang said, lines on maps, it is about the ability to ensure that our young people participate.
And so we will be bringing 15,000 young people with a pledge of $800 million over five years for a Green Army to work and learn and be part of the protected areas and those areas which are not covered by the lines on the map, which can be improved to rehabilitate our landscape.
In terms of clean air, the last act of our Parliament before this great Congress was to put in place a two-and-a-half billion dollar fund to reduce carbon.
It is part of our contribution to the great global task of reducing emissions and addressing climate change, and as a Congress we should all welcome the historic announcement of the United States and President Jiang, your country, China, in reaching an agreement for the future only hours ago. I’d like to think they timed it for the Congress.
And in terms of clean water, we have only in recent months achieved the long-held task, sought over a century, of an agreement in Australia to protect the Murray-Darling Basin. But not everything of course is perfect, and this Congress will not be a success if we pretend that everything is perfect. But this is not the group that would do that.
But, we have had a history in Australia, over a hundred years, of disposing of spoil from our coastal area in one of our great marine parks, even before it was a marine park along the reef.
Recently we committed to and ended the proposals to allow that dumping to occur, with the Queensland Government that is represented here today. We listened to the World Heritage Committee, and we acted.
But the IUCN asked us to go further; they sought a legal background to that, and tonight I can announce that, with the agreement of the Queensland Government, we will put that ban on capital dredge disposal in the marine park into law through regulation, so it will not be something that we face again, and that is our pledge to this conference.
The last thing that I want to do is to bring you good news. Only two hours ago many of the delegates in this room left an Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit, held here in Sydney and hosted by the Australian Government.
During the course of that Summit, we heard pledges of action from Papua New Guinea, which committed to bringing forward the ending of round log deforestation by a decade from 2030 to 2020. An extraordinary gesture by that country. We should give them applause.
Indonesia committed to protecting over 63 million hectares of the extraordinary peat land, which is so fundamental to preserving the world’s species and biodiversities.
We heard the Philippines commit to 1.5 billion trees being planted over the coming years, and the conference, the Summit, committed to developing an Asia-Pacific Rainforest Recovery Plan, which will see the ending of deforestation by 2030, and the halving of deforestation in our own region within five years.
So this Congress starts with some bold declarations and pledges. It’s now up to each of you, in your own way, through your own contributions, to contribute to that. Each will be asked to do difficult things, but it was Kennedy that said we choose to do the things that we do, not because they are easy but precisely because they are difficult.
And I would add to that that they are also fundamentally important for our grandchildren, and their grandchildren. Dream big, think big, make big decisions.
We thank you for being here, it is our honour.