Australian climate policy and the Asia Pacific partnership on clean development and climate (APP). From Howard to Rudd: continuity or change?


This article explains, first, why Australia’s government under John Howard, together with the United States Bush administration initiated the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP) and, second, why the succeeding Rudd government continued to support this initiative. Climate policy under the conservative Howard government (1995–2007) in Australia was largely dictated by fossil fuel and mineral sector interests, and reflected a close alliance with the Bush administration. The Howard government shunned the Kyoto Protocol, refused to set national binding greenhouse gas reduction targets and preferred voluntary cooperative measures with industry. The APP was part of the Howard government’s strategy to demonstrate some policy movement on climate change while postponing serious action. Climate change was a key issue in the election of the Rudd Labor government in Australia in December 2007. The Rudd government quickly ratified Kyoto, adopted emission reduction targets, and moved to introduce emissions trading. The Rudd government’s decision to continue involvement with the APP, albeit with diminished funding, was a pragmatic one. The APP was supported by industry and provided bridges to China and India—both key countries in the post-2012 UNFCCC negotiations. Finally, in order to assess the long-term outlook of the APP, the article provides a preliminary assessment as to whether the APP advances technology transfer.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    I follow here the definition of voluntarism used by Campbell (1998, p. 167). See McGee and Taplin (2008, p. 185), for a discussion of voluntarism and the APP in the US context.

  2. 2.

    Australia signed the Protocol on 29 April 1998. Kyoto Protocol, Status of Ratifications. Retrieved August 28, 2008, from:

  3. 3.

    The risk of ‘carbon leakage’ was exaggerated, and ignored the competitive advantage enjoyed by these companies owing to Australia’s generous royalty and taxation regimes (Garnaut 2008b, p. 321).

  4. 4.

    Opinion polls suggest that Australians are determined to see action on climate change with 77% of those polled in July 2008 in a Nielson poll responding positively to the question whether ‘Australia should press ahead and cut its greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of what other countries do’, with 68% prepared to pay more for goods and services required for climate change abatement (Reid 2008). At the same time, other polls showed concerns about the costs of climate policy (Morgan Poll 2008).

  5. 5.

    Interview, Australian Government Official, 27 June 2008.

  6. 6.

    In contrast, the Garnaut review had recommended to the government that a significant share of revenue collected from the auctioning of emissions permits be used to fund technology development (Garnaut 2008d, p. 332).

  7. 7.

    The White Paper reflects in this respect the final Garnaut report, which mentions the APP along with a number of other international technology initiatives, many of which are argued to be ‘in need of additional funding’ (Garnaut 2008c, p. 219). The Garnaut review argues that such funding should occur under the umbrella of a proposed international technology fund which would support research, development and commercialisation of low-emission technology. The report argues that the creation of such a fund is required to address market failures which will not be sufficiently addressed simply by national mitigation measures such as emissions trading or carbon taxes (Garnaut 2008c, p. 220).

  8. 8.

    The CDM is a mechanism established by the Kyoto Protocol which allows for emission reduction credits to be created through projects in developing countries.

  9. 9.

    Interview with an Australian Government official 13 August 2008.

  10. 10.

    Interview, Solar Systems representative, 12 August 2008.

  11. 11.


  12. 12.

    Interview with Matthew Groom, General Counsel, Roaring 40 s, 1 September 2008.

  13. 13.

    Interestingly, an Australian government official in an interview on 27 June 2008 indicated that it was unlikely that APP would be used as a forum to supplement the crowded UN negotiations but could complement the UN in the area of practical sectoral cooperation.


  1. ABC News (2007). Wong chairing meeting to secure Bali deal, December 14, 2007. Accessed 18 Aug 2008.

  2. APEC Sydney Declaration (2007). APEC leader’s declaration on climate change, energy security and clean development Sydney September 9, 2007. Accessed 12 Nov 2007.

  3. APP (2007). Asia-Pacific partnership on clean development and climate (APP) partnership for action booklet (2nd ed 2007). Accessed 17 Sept 2008.

  4. APP Charter (2006). Charter for the Asia-Pacific partnership on clean development and climate. Accessed 17 Sept 2008.

  5. APP Communiqué (2006). Asia Pacific partnership on clean development and climate, communiqué. Accessed 1 Jun 2009.

  6. Arvanitakis, J., & Tyler, A. (2008). In defence of multilateralism: How Australian politics can impact Colombia. Accessed 20 Aug 2008.

  7. Australia, House of Representatives (2002). Questions without notice: Environment-Kyoto. Hansard, 5 June 2002.

  8. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) (2006). Technological development and economic growth. ABARE Research Report 06.1. Prepared for the Inaugural Ministerial Meeting of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, Sydney, 11–13 January. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

  9. Australian Conservation Foundation (2008). Government must aim higher than Garnaut’s targets, 5 Sept 2008. Accessed 17 Sept 2008.

  10. Australian Government (2006). Asia-Pacific partnership on clean development and climate-partnership for action 2006. Accessed 15 Jan 2008.

  11. Australian Government (2008). Budget 2008–2009, budget paper no. 2, part 2, expense measures. Accessed 31 Jul 2008.

  12. Australian Government Department of Climate Change (2009a). Carbon pollution reduction scheme, timetable, and draft carbon pollution reduction scheme bill. Accessed 23 Mar 2009.

  13. Australian Government Department of Climate Change (2009b). Australia’s renewable energy target home. Accessed 1 Jun 2009.

  14. Australian Greenhouse Office. (2006). Tracking the Kyoto target 2006. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Australian Labor Party (2007). National platform adopted at the 44th ALP national conference, 27–29 April 2007. Accessed 24 Jul 2007.

  16. (2002). Howard government decides to ratify International Criminal Court, June 20, 2002. Accessed 27 Aug 2008.

  17. BBC News (2002).Australia rejects Kyoto pact, June 5 2002. Accessed 5 Aug 2008.

  18. Budget Measures (2008). Australian government budget 2008–09 budget paper no. 2 part 2: Expense measures. Accessed 31 Jul 2008.

  19. Campbell, K. (1998). From Rio to Kyoto: The use of voluntary agreements to implement the climate change convention. Review of European Community and International Environmental Law, 7(2), 159–169.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Christiansen, M., & Porteous, C. (2007). Nationals’ Mark Vale questions climate change. The Courier Mail, October 30, 2007.,23739,22669994-5013650,00.html. Accessed 19 Aug 2008.

  21. Christoff, P., & Eckersley, R. (2007). The Kyoto protocol and the Asia Pacific partnership on clean development and climate. In T. Bonyhady & P. Christoff (Eds.), Climate law in Australia. Sydney: Federation Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Climate Institute (2007). World’s first climate changed election?, November 23, 2007. Accessed 20 Aug 2008.

  23. Commonwealth of Australia. (2007). Australian government, Prime Ministerial task group of emissions trading, report of the task group on emissions trading. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Commonwealth of Australia (2008). White Paper: Carbon pollution reduction scheme. Accessed 23 Mar 2009.

  25. CSIRO (2008). Media release, carbon capture milestone for CSIRO in China reference 8/124, 31 July 2008. www.csiro,au/news/CarbonCaptureMilestone.html. Accessed 13 Aug 2008.

  26. Garnaut, R. (2008a). Garnaut climate change review interim report to the Commonwealth, state and territory governments of Australia, February 2008. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed 5 Aug 2008.

  27. Garnaut, R. (2008b). Garnaut climate change review, draft report, June 2008. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed 5 Aug 2008.

  28. Garnaut, R. (2008c). Garnaut climate change review, final report, 30 September 2008. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Accessed 23 Mar 2009.

  29. Garnaut, R. (2008d). Australia count itself out. The Age, 20 Dec 2008.

  30. Grattan, M. (2008). Garrett opposes Rudd uranium plan, December 12, 2006, Accessed 27 Aug 2008.

  31. Hamilton, C. (2007). Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change. Melbourne: Black Inc. Agenda.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Hamilton, I. (2007). Australia may adopt Kyoto on Bali eve, 3 October 2007, Carbon positive. Accessed 27 Aug 2008.

  33. International Climate Change Partnerships (2007). Website of the department of climate change, Australian government. Accessed 13 Aug 2008.

  34. Jotzo, F., & Betz, R. (2009). Linking the Australian emissions trading scheme. London: Climate Strategies. Accessed 28 May 2009.

  35. Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S. I., & van Asselt, H. (2009). Introduction: Exploring and explaining the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 9(3). doi:10.1007/s10784-009-9103-0.

  36. Kirk, A. (2009). Senate emissions stand-off gives Rudd early election trigger, May 27 2009, AM, ABC on line. Accessed 28 May 2009.

  37. Lawrence, P. (2007). The Asia Pacific partnership on clean development and climate (AP6): A distraction to the Kyoto process or a viable alternative? Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law, 10(3/4), 183–209.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Lawrence, P. (2008). APEC promises a roar and delivers a whimper: The Sydney declaration on climate and energy. Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law, 11(1–2), 29–49.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Lowy Institute for International Policy (2007). Australians speak on foreign policy, media release 30 August 2008. 174838. Accessed 20 Aug 2008.

  40. MacGill, I. (2008). Assessing Australia’s sustainable energy technology options: Key issues, uncertainty, priorities and potential choices. Asia-Pacific Journal of Environmental Law, 11(1–2), 85–100.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Macintosh, A. (2008). Domestic influences on the Howard government’s climate policy: Using the past as a guide to the future. Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law, 11(1–2), 51–84.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Macintosh, A. (2009). The Garnaut review’s targets and trajectories: A critique. Environmental Planning and Law Journal, 26, 88–103.

    Google Scholar 

  43. McGee, J., & Taplin, R. (2006). The Asia Pacific partnership on clean development and climate: A complement or competitor to the Kyoto protocol? Global Change Peace and Security, 18(3), 173–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. McGee, J., & Taplin, R. (2008). The Asia Pacific partnership and the United States’ international climate change policy. Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, 19(2), 179–218.

    Google Scholar 

  45. McGee, J., & Taplin, R. (2009). The role of the Asia Pacific Partnership in discursive contestation of the international climate regime. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 9(3). doi:10.1007/s10784-009-9101-2.

  46. Minchin, L., & Tomazin, F. (2007). Howard undermined on climate. The Age, April 25 2007. Accessed 26 Jun 2007.

  47. Morgan Poll (2008). Climate change costs erode ALP support, July 25 2008. Accessed 20 Aug 2008.

  48. Pearse, G. (2007). High and dry, John Howard, climate change and the selling of Australia’s future. Camberwell, Victoria: Viking, Penguin.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Pezzey, J. C. V., Jotzo, F., & Quiggin, J. (2007). Fiddling while carbon burns: Why climate policy needs pervasive omission pricing as well as technology promotion. Paper presented at Australia New Zealand Society for Ecological Economics, July 2007. Accessed 30 Jul 2008.

  50. Philibert, C. (2004). International energy technology collaboration and climate change mitigation. OECD paper COM/ENV/EPOC/IEA/SLT. Paris: OECD.

  51. Quiggin, J. (2007). The greenhouse mafia. The Australian Financial Review, 1 June 2007.

  52. Reid, A. (2008). Global monitor polls and research, Australians willing to curb climate change, July 26, 2008. Accessed 20 Aug 2008.

  53. Rosewarne, S. (2007). Global warming and discourses of uncertainty: Buying time, buying business and engendering risk. In G. Birch (Ed.), Water, wind art and debate: How environmental concerns impact on disciplinary research (pp. 23–69). Sydney: University press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Rudd, K. (2007). Speech, leadership for long-term sustainability: The roles of government, business and the international community, Address to the National Business Leaders Forum of Sustainable Development, Parliament House, Canberra, May 19, 2007. Accessed 30 Jul 2008.

  55. Sandeman, R. J. (2006). A critique of present Australian energy policy. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 63(6), 719–729.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Seres, S., & Haites, E. (2008). Analysis of technology transfer in CDM projects. Prepared for the UNFCCC Registration and Issuance Unit CDM/SDM. Accessed 28 May 2009.

  57. Shanahan, D. (2008). Australia funds China clean coal, The Australian, 14 April 2008. Accessed 31 Jul 2008.

  58. Skodvin, T., & Andresen, S. (2009). An agenda for change in U.S. climate policies? Presidential ambitions and congressional powers. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 9(3). doi:10.1007/s10784-009-9097-7.

  59. Solar Systems, (2006). Media release, Wednesday 1 November 2006. Accessed 20 Aug 2008.

  60. Stern, N. (2006). The economics of climate change. London: HM Treasury. Accessed 12 Mar 2007.

  61. The Australian (2006). China to top US as biggest polluter by 2010, November 2, 2006. Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre Database.

  62. The Jakarta (2007). Never expect Australia to change climate policy, December 10, 2007. Accessed 30 Jul 2008.

  63. TRUenergy and Solar Systems (2008). Press release. Accessed 20 Aug 2008.

  64. UNFCCC (2007). National greenhouse gas inventory data for the period 1990–2005 (FCCC/SBI/2007/30) 2007. Accessed 15 Aug 2008.

  65. van Asselt, H., Kanie, N., & Iguchi, M. (2009). Japan’s position in international climate policy: Navigating between Kyoto and the APP. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 9(3). doi:10.1007/s10784-009-9098-6.

  66. Wong, P. (2008a). It’s official, Australia is now part of the Kyoto protocol. Media release, 11 March 2008 PW 30/08. Accessed 30 Jul 2008.

  67. Wong, P. (2008b). Government announces detailed timetable on emissions trading, media release, 17 March 2008 PW 35/08. Accessed 27 May 2009.

  68. Wong, P. (2009a). Carbon pollution reduction scheme: Support in managing the impact of the global recession, media release, 4 May 2009a. Accessed 27 May 2009.

  69. Wong, P. (2009b). A new target for reducing Australia’s carbon pollution, media release, May 4 2009. Accessed 27 May 2009.

  70. Woolcott, R. (2005). Lecturing more and listening less. Centre for Policy Development, September 6, 2005. Accessed 27 Aug 2008.

Download references


The author thanks the following for thoughtful suggestions on earlier drafts of this article: Harro van Asselt, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Jeff McGee, Steve Waight, Anja Hilkemeijer and the anonymous reviewers. All views, errors and omissions are the author’s.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter Lawrence.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lawrence, P. Australian climate policy and the Asia Pacific partnership on clean development and climate (APP). From Howard to Rudd: continuity or change?. Int Environ Agreements 9, 281–299 (2009).

Download citation


  • Asia Pacific partnership on clean development and climate
  • Australian climate policy
  • Technology transfer