Topics: World Parks Congress, Renewable Energy Target
Good afternoon, my name is Julia Marton-Lefrevre, I have the huge privilege to be the director-general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN – which itself has the huge privilege of organising, with the Government of New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government, the World Parks Congress Sydney 2014.
And the motto and the hope of the congress is: not be moaning about the fate of nature, but rather looking at it as a provider of solutions, of our human well-being – so inspiring solutions for people, for parks and the planet. And we are expecting I think nearly 6000 people here in Sydney with all kinds of ideas of moving forward, finding solutions.
Now that we know what is going wrong, we also have the answers, and I’m holding on to this scroll, which is the promise of the Pacific Island leaders, the Pacific country leaders with whom I shared one of the four vakas that made the voyage for – over the last month, I only got a chance to get on the boat at Watson Bay, I think it’s called.
I had this incredible privilege of looking at the scenery of Sydney Harbour and to talking to the leaders of the Pacific Island states. And instead of bemoaning their fate, they are – and they will be the canaries in the coal mine, they will be the first to be touched by climate change and the rising oceans.
And instead of bemoaning their fate, they’re offering optimism and a message to the congress which I am carrying here, that together we can actually solve the problems and protected areas is a great instrument to do so.
Alright, thank you very much.
Australia is delighted to welcome to Sydney the World Parks Congress. This congress is about protecting the great forests and the oceans and the savannah lands; not just for 30 or 50 years, but for 100 years. It’s about the gift we give to our grandchildren and their grandchildren. And it is a congress focused on realistic hope that we have made progress, but we can do better and we can make commitments that will last not just for decades or generations, but for centuries.
I can say today that Australia has now achieved its international goal of 17 per cent of its land mass being in protected areas. This announcement that we have achieved our goal is part of our down payment to the future and our contribution as hosts to the conference.
I’m also delighted that Australia is hosting, as we speak, an Asia Pacific Rainforest Recovery Summit. Papua New Guinea has pledged that they will bring forward by a decade the ending of deforestation. Indonesia has pledged that they will preserve 63 million hectares of sensitive, vital peat land which would otherwise have been threatened.
Australia has committed $6 million for the regional program to reduce deforestation and combat illegal logging and today we will lay on the table for the first time an Asia-Pacific Rainforest Recovery Plan with the very simple goal of ending deforestation in our region, in our time.
It’s our honour, Julia, to host the IUCN and the World Parks Congress and delegates from around the world and the commitments we make are not just for decades, not just for generations, but for coming centuries.
Thanks. Ladies and gentlemen, the New South Wales Government is delighted to host the sixth World Park Congress right here in Sydney. This is the largest ever World Parks Congress and we’re delighted, obviously, for the fact that it puts Sydney and New South Wales number one in terms of major events in Australia and right at the heart of the global dialogue on conservation and protected areas.
I’m also delighted to announce today that as part of our commitment as a Government and as a people to protected area management, the creation of a new national park; the Everlasting Swamp National Park, which is a critical wetland area in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales and provides a critical role in terms of migratory bird habitat and also in purifying the local waters that travel into the Pacific Ocean.
We’re committed to conservation of our protected areas and are proud of the fact that New South Wales is site of the second-ever declared national park in the world. Thank you.
Right. We’re happy to take any questions about the congress and if there are any other domestic questions, out of respect to the Director-General, Rob and I will deal with those afterwards.
The IUCN provides advice to the World Heritage Committee about whether to put things on the endanger list. Now, the Great Barrier Reef is a big one here. What do you make of the Government’s decision to dump dredge spoil – or are planning to dump dredge spoil on land instead of in the marine park?
First of all, I should say that IUCN provides advice to the World Heritage Convention about new protected, natural or mixed sites and we’re not focusing on the endanger; but of course, we are focusing on good management of World Heritage Sites and other protected areas.
A lot of discussion about that will happen here. And we understand that Australian Government has listened to the discussion that took place at the World Heritage Committee in Doha. It is – the Great Barrier Reef is not on the endangered list and we’re discussing and I think we’ll make progress together.
And I would just add that it was the committee itself in its expressed terms of reference which asked Australia to move from marine park disposal to on-land disposal. So we have listened to the World Heritage Committee, we’ve ended a century of dumping in the marine park. We inherited five major proposals; they are all gone.
And so, we’ve not just listened, but we’ve acted on what the World Heritage Committee has asked for and followed expressly their request and I think that we should be very proud that we’ve turned around a century of practice.
Do you think that will be enough to keep it off the ‘in-danger’ list?
We’re looking into this together right now. I am optimistic and I am grateful for the fact that the Australian Government has entered into a dialogue with us about this. So, we will know next year, but I think we’re making progress together.
What is the IUCN’s opinion of Australia’s stance on environmental policies or climate change in general? What does the world think of Australia’s record?
I wish the world would think about Australia every day, I’m not sure it does. It’s great to be here and we’ll get to know more, but you know, the world – every single part of the world is challenged with the climate change issue and we’re addressing it as best as we can.
Let’s see what happens at the very key meeting in Paris at the end of 2015 and then I’ll be able to answer you better. But, frankly, IUCN accepted the invitation to have the World Parks Congress in Australia because we do know of Australia’s historic devotion, over many, many, many decades, to protected areas and to the environment.
So what would you say to the protesters who were planning to protest the IUCN? Given that they think Australia’s job in hosting the role is rather hypocritical?
You know, we need protesters everywhere and sometimes they have useful messages. I hope that they’ll be willing to sit down and talk to us and our colleagues from Australia so that together we can figure out a solution, but I haven’t met any protesters yet – but I look forward to talking to them if they’re willing to talk.
And just one last question on the congress; Nelson Mandela’s great-grandson is watching it. What is the symbolism of that?
Well for us of course, Nelson Mandela’s symbolism for the entire world you know about; he was a great leader and a great man. As it happens, he was also the patron of the last World Parks Congress which was held 11 years ago in Durban and he opened the meeting and he gave – you will be able to see a film of him – and he gave us great encouragement to continue this work.
I think he would be very proud of the fact that we’re doing it and it’s great to have his great-grandson here. You’ll see, he’s somebody you should all interview, he’s extremely articulate and he’s young, new, bright leader on the horizon.
Thank you very much.
[Doorstop on domestic matters]
Look firstly, what is your reaction to Labor’s decision to cancel negotiations on the RET?
Well Labor has slammed the door on their own workers. Only a couple of weeks ago the Labor Party said it was vital to reform the RET to protect jobs in Victoria and Tasmania. They did it on the front page of the national daily newspaper. So Labor has slammed the door on their own workers, they’ve also announced a new carbon tax today, which means a massive increase in electricity prices.
Labor has voted for jobs going overseas, for higher electricity prices with a new carbon tax, and they’ve walked away from their own negotiations. It’s a stunt. We are committed to 20 per cent renewable energy, to a significant expansion in Australia’s solar and other renewable resources, and we’re committed to the discussions, and our door is open.
But we would say to the ALP – end the stunts, don’t turn your back on your own workers, and don’t support another massive increase in electricity prices with another massive carbon tax.
What does this decision mean in practical terms?
Well they’re creating uncertainty for the renewable sector. We were negotiating in good faith; as a stunt they have walked away, yet they have said on the front of Australia’s newspapers that they want change to protect jobs in the trade-exposed and aluminium sector.
So they themselves have recognised that there is a real need to constructive change, and yet they’ve walked away from it whilst also advocating for a new carbon tax, which is a massive new increase in electricity prices.
When you said you wanted to walk away from the 41,000 gigawatt-hour target, didn’t that then create the uncertainty? Because that was what the understanding was prior to the election.
No there has always been a bipartisan commitment to 20 per cent renewable energy. This year we are going through a review which the Labor Party commissioned in legislation. So they created the review. Our approach, our commitment, is to work constructively, to reduce the pressure on jobs; we’ve already taken the pressure off electricity prices by abolishing the carbon tax, we’ve put in place a $2.5 billion carbon reduction fund.
What they have done today is call for a new electricity and carbon tax, and attack jobs in their own sector having said that without achieving real reform in the RET, and 20 per cent renewable energy, then there would be a massive impact on jobs in their own industrial base in Victoria, and New South Wales, and Tasmania.
But it takes two to tango. The Labor Party stated that the Government has been intransigent on a, you know, unrealistic goal. So aren’t you worried about the figures that have shown that investment in the renewable energy sector has collapsed by 70 per cent since the Government’s come into action? What is the Government doing to reinforce security in that sector?
Well we’re offering a dramatic growth in renewable energy. What you see at the moment is that there are 16,000 gigawatt-hours of installed capacity. That’s likely to increase, at the very least, by 60 to 70 per cent under what’s being proposed by the Government. We’re likely to see a doubling of solar. We’re at the table, and Labor has – for a stunt – slammed the door on their own workers, walked out of the room, and left the industry in uncertainty.
Our commitment is this: we stayed the course on the Green Army and passed the legislation; we stayed the course on the carbon tax repeal, and passed the legislation; we stayed the course on the Emissions Reduction Fund, and passed a $2.5 billion plan to reduce Australia’s emissions.
We will stay the course on the Renewable Energy Target; we are committed to 20 per cent renewable energy; we are likely to see a doubling of solar installations over the next five years. And we will stay the course and work constructively with all parties. The Labor Party should end the stunts, stop voting for higher electricity prices, and start protecting their workers.
Thank you very much.