Welcome Address by Ambassador Rod Smith
13th Asia-Pacific Policy Forum and Launch of Australian Government Aid Initiatives on Disaster Risk Reduction
20 August 2009
- Secretary Heherson Alvarez, the Presidential Adviser on Climate Change
- The Honourable Loren Legarda, Senator of the Republic of the Philippines
- Professor Roger Jones, our special guest climatologist and Research Fellow from Victoria University’s Centre for Strategic Economic Studies
Other distinguished experts, speakers and discussants, friends from the media diplomatic colleagues, ladies and gentlemen – magandang umaga sa inyong lahat, good morning, and welcome to this Asia-Pacific Policy Forum on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
This is the 13th Asia-Pacific Policy Forum organised by the Australian Embassy. The forums are intended to enable and encourage dialogue between policy makers and opinion leaders from Australia and the Philippines on issues of contemporary importance to the Asia-Pacific region.
Our past forums have covered topics as diverse as counter-terrorism, scientific research and interfaith dialogue.
This year we have chosen the theme of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction – an issue of very direct relevance to both Australia and the Philippines, and a particularly timely one ahead of what will be critically important multilateral negotiations in Copenhagen later this year on an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
A post-Kyoto agreement represents the next step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions following the expiration in 2012 of the targets set under the Kyoto Protocol.
It is really a cliché now to say that climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. All countries have to be part of that solution. But it won’t be easy and there will be lots of work to do over the coming months to narrow differences and define an outcome that will, hopefully, embody ambitious cuts to greenhouse gas emissions globally.
Let me take a few minutes to talk about Australia’s climate change policies before commenting on what we are doing cooperatively with the Philippines.
The Australian Government has adopted a three-pillar approach to climate change:
- Contributing to a global response
- Reducing Australia’s own emissions
- And adapting to climate change we cannot avoid
The first official act of the Government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. And Australia has committed to meeting its Kyoto target, limiting our greenhouse gas emissions by the 2012 timeframe.
Australia, like the Philippines, is also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Ours is a hot and dry continent which will be particularly affected by rising global temperatures and changing rainfall patterns. And as a resource-based economy, we could face significant economic impacts should there be an unbalanced and uncoordinated approach to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
The Government has committed to reducing our domestic emissions by between 5 and 15 per cent below year 2000 levels by 2020.
In per capita terms, that’s a 34 to 41 per cent reduction on 1990 levels for each Australian. And the Government has also signalled a willingness to make deeper cuts if agreement can be reached on an ambitious global agreement in Copenhagen.
Our target is a concrete contribution to shaping a long-term global solution.
- It will halt – and then reverse - Australia’s emissions for the first time, and put us on the path to a low-carbon future
- It commits us to our long-term target of reducing emissions by our stated target of 60 per cent on 2000 levels by 2050
- It will build confidence that emissions can be reduced while economies grow and it will, we hope, encourage all advanced economies to set comparable mid-term targets as soon as possible.
Domestically, the Australian Government is working to legislate for its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. I won’t go into detail of this because it is subject, as we speak, to ongoing legislative debate in the Australian Parliament.
In addition to our domestic efforts, Australia is working in a practical, cooperative way with our international partners to help address the practical challenges of climate change.
We are doing this through a number of initiatives, including:
- a A$150 million International Climate Change Adaptation Initiative
- a A$200 million International Forest Carbon Initiative to protect carbon sinks, particularly in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
- a A$100 million per year Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute to drive the dissemination of new technologies and know-how across the globe
- a A$100 million contribution to the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund
Here in the Philippines, we have a practical cooperation under our bilateral aid program to assist the Philippines specifically to adapt to climate change and mitigate, and respond to, natural disasters beyond human control.
Disaster risk reduction
Australia recognises the Philippines faces a seemingly continuous threat from natural hazards:
- There are more than five earth tremors every day
- And 20 typhoons reach the Philippines each year, of which about five wreak havoc as they move across the archipelago.
When these hazards affect vulnerable communities there is always the potential for a serious disaster to occur. Since 2006, the Australian Government has provided over Php100 million (A$3 million) in humanitarian and emergency assistance to the Philippines to respond to such situations.
We also recognise that many existing hazards – flooding, extreme weather events and tidal surges – could be aggravated by the negative effects of climate change. This is why we are supporting climate change adaptation by addressing the lack of information about the hazards facing the Philippines.
One of the projects being launched later this morning with NEDA and the UNDP supports mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in local level development planning – a concrete example of both Australia and the Philippines working together to ensure communities are protected.
Australia believes that, while natural disasters cannot be prevented, we can reduce the potential of damage and economic devastation by becoming more aware of hazards and working to reduce the impacts on vulnerable communities.
I would like to acknowledge the important work the Philippines is doing to implement its 2008 Strategic National Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction and the 2009 Climate Change Act.
- Australia supports the Philippines’ efforts on DRR
- The Australian Government launched its own disaster risk reduction policy for International development in Geneva on 15 June
- And the new policy identifies the Philippines as one of two priority countries for DRR support, along with Indonesia.
And we are working in close partnership with the Philippine Government on a comprehensive and coherent package of support for disaster risk reduction. This package of initiatives – worth about Php185 million (A$5.2 million) targets the lack of fundamental data on hazards and risk in the Philippines.
- We’re working with Government agencies here on multi-hazard mapping
Undertaking community-based planning and preparedness with the Philippine National Red Cross
- And providing technical support from Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meterology to various Philippine agencies.
Shortly we will also sign an agreement on three new projects worth Php123 million to expand our assistance to the Philippines to address hazard risks.
We see this Asia-Pacific Policy Forum on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as an opportunity to generate ideas about how these two inter-related challenges can be addressed in a cohesive manner.
The success of this policy forum depends on your active participation. We have structured the day by having a series of key speakers, followed by a series of expert discussants who, I am sure, will prompt some thought provoking questions.
I want to acknowledge in particular our special guests, Secretary Herherson Alvarez and Senator Loren Legarda.
Secretary Alvarez has a long history of Government service and is currently the Presidential Adviser on Climate Change and Global Warming. I recently had the pleasure of discussing climate change policies with the Secretary and I look forward to hearing his perspectives on the Philippine Government’s approach to climate change.
I am also delighted to have Senator Legarda here today. Senator Legarda is well known as a champion advocate for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in the Philippines and internationally. In her role as Asia-Pacific Champion for these issues she has travelled throughout the region to promote urgent action and cooperation.
And I want to extend a warm welcome, if that’s the right expression, to Professor Roger Jones, an eminent climatologist from Victoria University in Melbourne who will discuss the climate change phenomenon from an Australian academic’s perspective.
We look forward to their input this morning.
Let me emphasise that this forum is intended to provoke thought, discussion and dialogue. We’re not trying to impose Australian or indeed Filipino views on the climate change debate. Rather we want to encourage as much open debate as possible and draw out from our discussions some of the most pressing policy challenges facing our region when it comes to adapting to climate change and reducing our exposure to hazard events.
So with that end in mind, I would encourage your full participation and I thank you for your attendance here today. Please enjoy the discussion this morning.