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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  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: www.unfccc.int/files/kyoto_protocol/status_of_ratifications.

  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.

    Ibid.

  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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-009-9102-1

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Keywords

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