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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2004 / 1009

1009

Friends of the Earth
Press Release

australian elections – voters can save great barrier reef from climate change

Australians will vote on whether to save their natural icons such as the Great Barrier Reef from being destroyed by climate change when they go to the polls in the Australian Federal Election today (Sat Oct 9).

Australia has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emission rates on the planet at about 26.7 tonnes per person - twice the average level of other wealthy countries (13.4 tonnes) and 25% higher than emissions per person in the United States (21.2 tonnes) - but the current Howard government has refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol despite Australia’s natural barrier reef, wet tropics and alpine regions being threatened by climate change.

Voters will choose between the incumbent Howard Coalition Government and the opposition Labor Party, led by Mark Latham, with the politicians holding opposing views on Kyoto and the environment.

Under Howard, Australia is currently Bush’s closest ally in opposing the Kyoto Protocol, contrasting with the Labor Party’s promise to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, protect Australia’s biggest river, the Murray River, which is on the verge of collapse and protect all the old growth forests of Tasmania, an area of forest with world heritage values under immediate threat from the logging industry.

With Russia’s recent announcement that it will ratify Kyoto, the election of a Labor Government in Australia would leave the Bush administration in the United States completely isolated on climate change and Kyoto ratification.

Friends of the Earth believes that since coming to power in 1996 the Coalition Government in Australia has consistently failed to protect the environment, meet the needs of Indigenous people, and has damaged Australia's international reputation, unfairly targeted and treated refugees, and set shamefully low levels of foreign aid.

Friends of the Earth International Climate Change spokesperson Catherine Pearce said:

"If Australian’s fail to vote for a political party that will ratify Kyoto the Australian environment will suffer irreparable harm and the global fight against climate change and to conserve biodiversity will take a significant step back. Both parties should be committing to the 60% reduction in greenhouse pollution required by 2050 if we are to avoid dramatic impacts from climate change, but the Labor Party at least has shown it has listened to the concerns of the Australian people on environmental issues.”

Notes for Editors:

• The Australian Government threatened to walk out of the original Kyoto protocol negotiations if parties to the conference refused to allow them an increase in their national greenhouse gas emissions. These tactics secured an agreement to allow Australia an 8% increase of emissions over 1990 levels. Since then Australia has exceeded this unfair entitlement and now emits around 16% over 1990 levels.

• The Tasmanian old growth forest crisis has turned into the crunch environmental issue in the Australian election. A collation of leading environmental groups has been campaigning to save 240,000 hectares of old growth forest under threat from the woodchip industry. Gunns, one of the most destructive corporations in Australia, is wood-chipping old growth forest which is exported to Japan to make into paper. The Tasmanian old growth forests are home to the tallest hardwood trees in the world which can reach over 90 metres in height and many rare and endangered wildlife, including the wedge tailed eagle and the spotted tailed quoll, a carnivorous marsupial. Campaigners from around the world have been supporting the call for the protection of these forests which have global biodiversity value.

For further information please contact:

Ed Matthew – Forest Campaigner
Mob: 07813 027105

Catherine Pearce
International Climate Change Campaigner
direct line: ++44 (0)20 7566 1723
mobile: ++44 (0) 7811 283641

 

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