AUSTRALIA'S ENVIRONMENTAL INTERESTS
Australia attaches high priority to the protection, conservation and ecologically sustainable use of the environment. In international environment negotiations Australia pursues outcomes that advance its environmental and trade interests in a mutually reinforcing way.
During 2009, Australia continued to play a leading role in promoting global action to address the adverse effects of climate change in a range of international and regional forums, including the UN, G8, G20, APEC and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). In negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Government called on all major emitters to commit to mitigation action in a post-Kyoto global agreement. Australia also continued to pursue action on climate change through bilateral partnerships. As part of Australia’s International Forest Carbon Initiative, the Government provided significant assistance to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Australia is a global leader in whale conservation and is an active member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Australia has been firm in advocating reform of the IWC into a modern, conservation-focused organisation and an end to so-called ‘scientific’ whaling. At the 61st annual IWC meeting in 2009, Australia’s concept of conservation management plans for endangered whale species was adopted. The Australia-led non-lethal Southern Ocean Research Partnership was endorsed by many countries, and Australia obtained commitments for financial and in-kind support from the United States, France and Argentina. A report on whale watching prepared jointly by Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa was also widely welcomed, at the IWC meeting, entrenching whale watching as part of the normal business of the Commission. Discussions are ongoing on the future of the IWC. Australia is a member of both the Support Group and the Small Working Group, whose deliberations will assist the IWC Chair in preparing a submission which will ultimately be put before the full IWC membership for consideration at the next annual meeting.
Marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction
Australia is a recognised world leader in marine conservation and management, and is concerned about the impact of a range of fishing activities on vulnerable high seas ecosystems. In 2006, Australia successfully led major efforts in the UN General Assembly to achieve international agreement on the regulation of bottom fisheries so as to prevent significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems, including seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold water corals, in areas beyond national jurisdiction. In May 2009, Australia reported to the United Nations the progress of its implementations on the agreed measures, both as a flag state through domestic legal requirements and in cooperation with other countries through regional fisheries management organisations (Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, South Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement and the proposed South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation). Australia will continue to be actively engaged in further negotiations in the United Nations on efforts to enhance the protection of the world’s marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Tsunami warning mechanisms
The Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004 had a devastating impact on a number of Australia’s neighbouring countries. Following the tsunami, Australia has played a leading role in establishing an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system and is continuing to develop a comprehensive national warning system. As part of the Indian Ocean system, Australia’s increased monitoring capacity off the west and north coast will provide vital regional coverage and early warning. Australia is also assisting to strengthen the Pacific Tsunami Warning System. The Government has signed Australian Tsunami Warning System Memorandums of Understanding with eight Pacific island countries.