Tag Archives: Robert Hill

April 29, 1998 – Australia signs the Kyoto Protocol

So, after getting a super generous deal, Australia signed (as distinct from ratifying) the Kyoto Protocol on this day 19 years ago, with Robert Hill (Minister for the Environment) doing the deed in New York.

Hill signs historic agreement to fight global warming, media release, 29 April, 1998.

 

Also on this day

1997 “THE CHALLENGE FOR AUSTRALIA ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE”  29 April 1997 http://www.acola.org.au/climate2.htm

Australian Academy of Science, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, Australian Academy of the Humanities, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, 1997 – Science – 127 pages

April 25, 2000 “Beyond Kyoto: Australia’s efforts to combat global warming”

On this day Senator the Hon Robert Hill,  spoke at a meeting of the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change in Washington. The title –  ‘Beyond Kyoto Australia’s efforts to combat global warming’.

As the man said – “The road to policy agreement is paved with good intentions, the road to implementation is lined with the potholes of reality.”

The Liberals had continued the ALP’s hostility to an international climate regime, and amplified it.  Hill had gotten a “good” deal for Australia at the 1997 Kyoto conference – a 108% emissions “reduction” target (i.e. an increase), and – crucially – a land-clearing clause that effectively increased that 108% to about 130 percent.  Hill had apparently refused to attempt to get 118%, and is well-regarded by environmentalists known to this author.  Hill had signed the Kyoto Protocol for Australia in April of 1998. Later that year it emerged that Cabinet had decided not to ratify unless the USA did.  In April 2000 the US Presidential election was still 7 months away. It was an election where Al Gore would win the popular vote, but lose in the Supreme Court. So it goes.  Bush pulled out of Kyoto, and Australia followed in 2002, by which time Hill had been moved from Environment to Defence…

April 17, 1993 – A carbon tax? Don’t be a mongrel

 

The pre-history of pricing carbon (it didn’t start in 2006) is a fascinating thing.  If you’re a geek like me, that is…

“The Prime Minister, Paul Keating, and the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Simon Crean, have denied knowledge of alleged Treasury proposals for a $1.9 billion energy tax.

“Mr Crean rejected reports in The Weekend Australian and The Age on Saturday [17 April] which suggested that a tax on the energy content or fuels and possibly carbon emissions, being discussed by Treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, had drawn on studies by the Department of Primary Industries and Energy.”

Brough, J. 1993. Keating, Crean deny energy-tax proposal. Canberra Times, Monday 19 April, p.3.

This turned into a full-blown battle in late 1994/early 1995.  Everybody knows the green guys lost…

Also on this day- 

2000 The “High Level Forum on Sinks” was held in Perth from April 17-20 2000.

Australia is preparing to host a major international meeting of environment ministers to broaden global acceptance of forests as a source of carbon credits. But the meeting comes at a time when the ability of forests to actually generate these credits is increasingly in scientific doubt…..

Hordern, N. 2000. Australia pushes carbon sinks. The Australian Financial Review, 3 March, p.16.

Oh, and they stacked it –

Australia is being accused of deliberately “stacking” a conference of international environment ministers in Perth next week in a bid to undermine the global goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions….

Australia has invited ministers from around the world, but stands accused of inviting only countries sympathetic to its own position on sinks.

Germany and other European countries which are of the view that overuse of sinks could encourage countries not to reduce emissions have been left out.

Clennel, A. 2000. Greenhouse Gas Conference `stacked’. Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April, p.15.

Meanwhile, on the same day it is reported that

“Federal Labor is preparing a major push for the green vote at the next election by toughening its stance in key areas including greenhouse gases and mining in national parks. A draft of its revised policy platform also commits the party to establishing a new independent watchdog, the Commissioner for the Environment.”

2000 Robinson, M. and Clennell, A. 2000. Labor To Push Tough Policy For Green Vote. Sydney Morning Herald, 17 April, p.7.

Yes, well, there was a bit of a blue in Hobart later that year. Can’t have everything.  They went to the 2001 election with a reasonable green policy.  And… Tampa.

2001 “Hill was introduced at an April 17 climate change conference in Washington, organised by the Pew Center, as representing the country with the closest position to that of the US. According to the April 21 Melbourne Age, Hill “waffled at every question suggesting Australia was conveniently hiding behind the US withdrawal because it never really supported Kyoto”.” https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/canberra-covers-bush-greenhouse

2005 A unique multidisciplinary conference entitled ‘Science and ethics: Can Homo sapiens survive?’ was held at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra on 17-18 May. See Canberra Times article.  It was about Frank Fenner.  The answer? Pretty obvious, 12 years later…

April 15, 1994 – Greenpeace sues to stop a coal-fired power station.

Can the law be used to save the species (from itself?)  Once upon a time we had reason to believe it, just, might.  On this day in 1994, Greenpeace sued…

“Greenpeace yesterday sought to test a new international treaty on global warming for the first time by filing a lawsuit to stop the construction of a $220 million New South Wales power station [The Redbank one].
The executive director of Greenpeace, Ms Lynette Thorstensen, said the action would test the force of the United Nations convention on climate change, which seeks to cut greenhouse gases.
1994 Kelly, H. 1994. Greenpeace Sues To Halt Building. The Age, 16 April, p.4.

1994 was not a good year for Greenpeace Australia – budget crises, departures and then, in November, they lost this case.  You can read more about the case in the excellent

Bonyhady, T. and Christoff, P. 2007. Climate Law in Australia. Sydney: The Federation Press.

from which the following two quotes are taken

The Redbank case was the first in the world where standing was not an issue and a court had to consider arguments about the substance of climate change.
The capacity of the NSW Land and Environment Court to embrace the new law had just been demonstrated in striking fashion by Justice Paul Stein, the judge who has made the greatest contribution to environmental law in Australia. His characteristically bold decision in Leatch v Shoalhaven City Council involved the precautionary principle which had begun to occupy an increasing place in international agreements and domestic policy documents but had little place in Australian legislation.
(Bonyhady, 2007: 11)

Jonathan Simpkins who represented Greenpeace [page break] argued cogently that the court had both the power and the duty to act. He dwelt on the risk of the courts washing their hands of the issue by saying it was a matter of high policy for someone else which would mean that nothing would be done to address climate change. He dwelt on the danger that each addition to our greenhouse emissions would be cast as too small to warrant action which would similarly mean that climate change would go unchecked. But he could not persuade Justice Marla Pearlman, who, in 11 years as Chief Judge of the Land and Environmental Court, displayed a very different understanding of the judicial function to Paul Stein.
Justice Pearlman became the first, but by no means the last, judge in the world to say climate change was not for her when she declared that it was ‘of course, a matter of government policy… to take into account the competing economic and environmental issues raised by the enhanced greenhouse effect’ and ‘not for the Court to impose… a prohibition on the mine.’
(Bonyhady, 2007:11-12)

Also on this day –

2001 Environment Minister Robert Hill reveals existence of Howard letter to Bush re: Bush pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol  – “Greens Senator Bob Brown said yesterday the letter was mostly a public relations exercise for “domestic consumption”. Clennell, A. 2001. Lead The World On Greenhouse Treaty, PM Urges Bush. Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April. p.2.

2014 Clive Hamilton publishes new highly entertaining dirty dozen on Crikey –

April 11, 2001 – John Quiggin eviscerates the Lavoisier Group.

John Quiggin is a take-no-prisoners economist who isn’t afraid of a fight.  In 2001 he had an article entitled “Wishful thinking of Walsh’s true believers” in the Australian Financial Review. You can read the whole thing here, but these are the choice bits.

Along with a range of right-wing luminaries, [Peter Walsh, Hawke’s Treasurer] is a leading figure in the grandly-named Lavoisier Group. This body is devoted to the proposition that basic principles of physics, discovered by among others, the famous French scientist Antoine Lavoisier, cease to apply when they come into conflict with the interests of the Australian coal industry.

and

The Lavoisier Group serves one useful social purpose. There are always participants in the public debate who will happily put forward any proposition that supports their position, whether or not it has any basis in fact and logic. The arguments of such commentators should be discounted appropriately, but it takes time and effort to identify them on an individual basis.

The Lavoisier Group has collected a number of prominent commentators who indicate, by their membership, that they are prepared to rely on wishful thinking whenever it suits their turn. These true believers in fairies at the bottom of the garden should be accorded the credibility they deserve.

Also on this day- 

On 28 February 1997  Federal Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill announced the release of a discussion paper, ‘Future Directions for Australia’s National Greenhouse Strategy’, prepared by the Intergovernmental Committee on ESD with a deadline for submissions of 11 April 1997.

April 3, 2000 – Greenhouse gas conference ‘stacked’ to ignore sea level rise…

So, Australian diplomats and senior politicians had in the late 1980s made some of the right noises about sea level rise as a consequence of anthropogenic global warming.  Those days were long ago and in another country by the 2000s. And besides, the wench was dead…

Mr Hare said he had recently been to a Pacific greenhouse conference in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, [3-7 April ]  where Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials had tried to play down the impact of the greenhouse effect.

He said they had put up arguments that sea level rises were not as high as had been reported and might not necessarily be a result of global warming.

Senator Hill said if the department’s officials were mounting that argument, it might be on the basis of scientific uncertainty in the area.

2000 Clennel, A. 2000. Greenhouse Gas Conference `stacked’. Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April, p.15

Stay classy, Australia…

Also on this day- 

2001 “The Australian government is being applauded by corporate polluters and corporate front groups at home and abroad. The Global Climate Coalition, the major front group for US corporate polluters, features on its web site an article by Alan Wood in the April 3 Australian (<http://www.globalclimate.org>). Wood’s article, titled “Killing Kyoto in Australia’s best interests”, urges Australia to back the US in pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol.

“Wood comments favourably on a paper written by climate sceptic Alan Oxley for the Lavoisier Group, an Australian “think tank” which argues that the Kyoto Protocol poses “the most serious challenge to our sovereignty since the Japanese fleet entered the Coral Sea on 3 May, 1942”.

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/canberra-covers-bush-greenhouse

And that article is this one –

Wood, A. 2001. Killing Kyoto in Australias best interests. The Australian, 3 April, p13.

The US has called Europe’s bluff. Listen to the Europeans and you could be forgiven for thinking George W. Bush has just sent the world to the gas chamber – the greenhouse gas chamber, that is. What Bush has really done by rejecting the Kyoto Protocol is shatter a European dream of running the international energy market, or at least a substantial bit of it.

This dream arose from a mix of Europe’s quasi-religious green fundamentalism and cynical calculation of commercial advantage. Jacques Chirac gave the game away at the failed COP6 talks at The Hague last November, when he described the protocol as “a genuine instrument of global governance”.

Meanwhile, in 2007 John Howard was coming under pressure not just from Kevin Rudd, but business…

Murphy, K. 2007. Business counters PM to back emissions targets. The Age, 4 April.

New consumer petrol tax floated

AUSTRALIA’S top companies say the country must set concrete targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years as the centrepiece of policies to combat climate change.

In a message that undercuts Prime Minister John Howard’s recent political attack on Labor’s pledge to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, the Business Council of Australia has endorsed immediate and long-term emission reduction targets.

Mr Howard has criticised Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd’s pledge to cut emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, claiming it would damage the economy.

But while not endorsing Labor’s specific target, the Business Council accepted the principle, saying targets were necessary to find a solution to rising carbon dioxide emissions.

The council yesterday released what it called a “strategic framework for emissions reduction” – a document setting its policy on climate change – which argues that Australia should implement a “cap and trade” emissions trading scheme.

A year later a CCS demonstration plant opened…

Thursday, 3 April 2008 World’s largest CO2 storage demo plant opens in Victoria

“THE launch of Australia’s first carbon dioxide storage demonstration project is a “key strategic initiative in the global challenge of addressing climate change”, according to Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Mitchell Hooke. “

March 30, 2000 – Environment Minister attacks industry over emissions

People who know about these things say Robert Hill was a lone voice of reason in the Cabinet of John Howard.  As Environment Minister from 1996 to late 2001, Hill did the best he could with the cards he was dealt.  He lost all of the big battles, of course, but that doesn’t reflect on him so much as on the Howard cabinet and the lack of prolonged noisy pressure from ‘Joe and Jane Public’… so it goes.  Anyway, on this day in 2000 Hill served a dish of complaint to (un-named) Australian companies.

Industry has been slammed by Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill for its slowness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’m not inclined to reward those companies who make Australia’s emission reduction task more difficult,” Senator Hill said yesterday.

The blunt message came at The Australian Financial Review’s Third Annual Emissions Forum, being held in Sydney. But industry wants the government to provide better incentives to reduce emissions.

Hordern, N. 2000. Hill attacks industry over gas emissions. The Australian Financial Review, 31 March, p27.

 

Also on this day- 

George Bush Jnr had withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in late March 2001.  This caused ructions –

The Prime Minister and his Environment Minister seemed at odds yesterday over the United States’s dumping of the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.

2001 Clennell, A. and Kerr, J. 2001. Greenhouse Stand Puts Libs At Odds. Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March, p11.

By 2007, climate change was seriously on the agenda –

IN THE sometimes icy world of climate change politics, there appears to be a quiet hum of agreement about the desirability of an emissions trading scheme.

The visiting climate change economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, supports the idea.

The Prime Minister, after years of disinterest, has given it a tentative tick of approval by commissioning a task group on emissions trading, which will report at the end of May. And the state governments have set up their own emissions trading taskforce.

Even the big polluters – Qantas, Alumina, BHP – all endorse it in submissions to the two inquiries. But there are serious divisions about how an emissions trading scheme might work.

Saulwick, J. 2007. Climate change debate warms up in corporate world.  Sydney Morning Herald, 30 March.

In 2012 Nikki Williams of the Australian Coal Association gave a speech in Beijing extolling the virtues of carbon capture and storage.

“Having Carbon Capture and Storage technology at commercial scale deployed widely around the globe, is absolutely critical to ensure a sustainable future for fossil fuels in a restructuring global energy economy.”

Oddly, it was  8 long years after  O’Neill, M. (2004) Coal industry’s plans to clean up its act should not be lightly dismissed Canberra Times 30th March

And since CCS hasn’t happened, and won’t happen, what does that mean, given that it was ‘absolutely critical’…