Background Paper 4 1997-98
Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Group
29 September 1997
The complexity of scientific debate and the intricacies of the global negotiating process leads to a high acronym count, those used in this chronology are listed below.
- Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Economics
- Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate
- Activities Implemented Jointly
- Alliance of Small Island States
- Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation
- Council of Australian Governments
- Conference of the Parties
- European Conference of Ministers of Transport
- Ecologically Sustainable Development
- European Union
- Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- Non Government Organisations
- National Greenhouse Response Strategy
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
- Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries
- Quantified Emission Limitation and Reduction Objectives
- United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
- United Nations Environment Program
- World Meteorological Organisation
The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon which keeps the earth's temperature some 33C above what it would be in the absence of greenhouse gases. The atmosphere of earth consists of a mixture of gases dominated by nitrogen, oxygen and water vapour. Carbon dioxide, argon, methane and other trace gases are also represented throughout the atmosphere. Energy from the sun passes through the gases to warm the earth. The lower atmosphere is warmed through energy transmission to the land, water and atmosphere, while energy not captured is dissipated back into space.
Human activities have modified the balance of trace gases in the earth's atmosphere, for example carbon dioxide levels are 29 per cent higher today than they were 200 years ago, prior to the industrial revolution.(1) Largely anthropogenic (man made) trace gases such as chlorofluorocarbons, methyl bromide and hydrofluorocarbons which impact upon the greenhouse effect are also part of the atmosphere today. Changes in the gas composition of the atmosphere are predicted to change the balance of infra red radiation dissipated back into space, trapping a higher proportion of the energy. The 'enhanced' greenhouse effect is this anthropogenic impact upon the energy balance of the atmosphere. The anticipated consequence of this altered balance is increased temperatures in the lower atmosphere. Further consequences of this change are predicted changes in weather patterns and an increase in sea levels.
Current estimates of the enhanced greenhouse effect impact are an increase in global temperature of between 1.0C and 3.5C by 2100 relative to 1990, with a 'best estimate' value of 2C. Average sea levels are expected to rise by between 0.15 and 0.95 metres by 2100 relative to 1990 with a 'best estimate' of 0.5 metres.(2)
The scale of the problem in reducing greenhouse gas emissions cannot be underestimated; most human economic activity relies on emitting greenhouse gases to some degree. The problems associated with mitigating ozone depletion were large and took some time to negotiate through the Montreal Protocol. However, ozone depleting chemicals are a limited suite of artificially manufactured compounds produced by a limited number of companies for specific purposes. Also, all the effects arising from ozone depletion were clearly negative, unlike the effects of climate change. International negotiations were able to resolve the issue with effort over some time, mainly by substitution with alternative chemicals. Problems still remain with the use of these ozone depleting chemicals in developing countries and illicit trading into developed countries, but the gradual recovery of the ozone layer is expected to commence in the next few years.
Negotiations on ozone depleting chemicals, which are almost exclusively a consequence of technological society, have to some degree been used as a model for climate change negotiations. The similarities are limited, however, all human activity and every person has some impact on greenhouse gas emissions and often livelihoods and national economics are dependent upon the emissions. By the very nature of the problem, ameliorating the emissions of greenhouse gases presents a massive challenge. The problems with negotiating greenhouse gas targets are compounded by the concept and positive and negative impacts. It may be in some countries' interests for the climate and rainfall range to change as predicted. Similarly the argument remains that global warming may be a natural phenomenon not necessarily, or only partially linked to increased anthropogenic gas emissions. This argument, however, has limited validity as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has clearly stated that 'the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate'.(3)
Just as the environmental impacts of climate change may vary between countries, the economic impacts of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be highly variable between countries. For example, countries with a high reliance on nuclear power, low levels of population growth and a limited area are not likely to be heavily impacted compared with countries of large areas, high population growth and a strong reliance on fossil fuels. Actions taken by developed countries and not matched by developing countries would simply move relatively greenhouse gas emission-efficient industries out of developed nations to nations where emission efficiency was a lesser consideration. The result would be increased global greenhouse gas emissions for the same amount of production. Overall, the greatest potential for future rises in global greenhouse gas emissions comes from the developing countries, due to population growth combined with increased per capita emissions.
The following chronology outlines the development of the greenhouse debate with particular reference to Australian participation. Australia has had strong involvement in the development of greenhouse science and policy since the issue developed in the 1970s.
Milestones Details Source
1861 The Irish physical chemist John Tyndall suggested there
was a link between the absorption of radiation in the
atmosphere and the gas composition of the atmosphere. It
is well established that the earth's temperature would
be about 33C cooler in the absence of the natural
1895 The Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius produced a paper on
the Enhanced Greenhouse Effect. Arrhenius estimated that
the earth would warm by 5.2C with a doubling of carbon
March 1958 Monitoring of carbon dioxide concentrations in the
atmosphere commenced on Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The
Atmosperic Carbon Dioxide Program of the International
Geophysical Year established the observatory.
February 1979 The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) sponsored
the First World Climate Conference at Geneva in
Switzerland. The conference called for further research
into increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.
22 September 1985 The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone
Layer came into force; this became a relatively simple
model for initial greenhouse gas negotiations.
Generally, substances that impact on ozone depletion are
also greenhouse gases often with a much higher impact
per molecule than CO2.
9-15 October 1985 The WMO and the United Nations Environment Program
(UNEP) staged a conference on climate in Villach,
Austria. Increased awareness of climate change issues
evolved from this conference. The conference urged
further research into both the causes and effects of
climate change and arranged follow up workshops on
1987 The World Commission on Environment and Development's
Our Common Future ('the Brundtland report') was
released. It clearly defined the concept of sustainable
8 June 1988 Australia signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances
that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It came into force for
Australia on 17 August 1989.
27-30 June 1988 The World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere;
Implications for Climate Change was held in Toronto,
Canada. The Toronto Agreement aimed to cut CO2 emission
levels by 20 per cent by the year 2005, using 1988 as a
base level. The Australian government adopted this
target, as an Interim Planning Target in 1990. Forecasts
at that time were predicting a 3C rise in global
temperatures by 2030 due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas
October 1988 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was
jointly established by WMO and UNEP. The IPCC comprised
three Working Groups, I - Scientific Analysis, II -
Impacts and III - Response Strategies.
11 March 1989 The Declaration of the Hague called for a Convention on
Climate Change. Australia along with 23 other countries
signed the Declaration which pledges that the countries
will work through the United Nations to take measures to
control global climate change.
July 1989 Prime Minister Bob Hawke appointed Sir Ninian Stephen
Australia's first Ambassador for the Environment.
November 1989 Fifteen island nations met at Male in the Maldives and
made the Male Declaration on Global Warming and Sea
Level Rise, which called upon industrialised nations to
control greenhouse gas emissions.
The Noordwijk, Netherlands, Ministerial Conference on
Atmospheric Pollution and Climate Change was attended by
the representatives of 67 countries, 11 international
organisations and the Commission of the European
Community. The Noordwijk Declaration on Atmospheric
Pollution urged industrialised countries to support
investigations into limiting CO2 emissions.
22 December 1989 The United Nations decided to convene a two week long
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED) in Brazil to coincide with World Environment
Day, 5 June 1992 (Resolution 44/228).
9 June 1990 The first assessment report of the IPCC Working Group I
was released including predictions of global warming and
climatic impacts (a supplement was added in 1992). The
best estimates from Working Group I (scientific
analysis) were a 3C rise in global temperature and a
0.65m sea level rise by 2100. Australian scientist Dr
Greg Tegart was a Co-Vice-Chairman on the Climate
Change, The IPCC Impacts Assessment report from Working
Group II. Consensus was also reached at the Response
Strategies Working Group of the IPCC, Working Group III.
The Scientific and Impact Assessment reports concluded
that emissions from human activities were increasing
atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, which
was likely to enhance the natural greenhouse effect
resulting in global warming.
August 1990 Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced the creation of nine
Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) Working
The 4th session of IPCC was held in Sundsvall, Sweden.
11 October 1990 The Australian Government adopted an Interim Planning
Target to stabilise greenhouse gas emission at 1988
levels by 2000 and to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by
the year 2005 based on 1988 levels (known as the Toronto
target). An important caveat was included in this
target. This stated that measures which would have net
adverse economic impacts nationally or on Australia's
trade competitiveness would not be implemented in the
absence of similar action by major greenhouse gas
producing nations. Actions would be taken if benefits
were realised in addition to the greenhouse gas emission
reduction benefits, for example energy conservation.
This became known as the 'no regrets' strategy.
November 1990 The Second World Climate Conference in Geneva reached a
scientific consensus that action on climate change was
required, but failed to agree on a strategy to prevent
global warming. Australia and other nations negotiated
for the adoption of emission reduction targets.
Formation of the Alliance of Small Island States
(AOSIS), a coalition of small, low lying or coastal
developing countries vulnerable to sea level rises.
21 December 1990 The United Nations General Assembly, in Resolution
45/212, established the Intergovernmental Negotiating
Committee (INC) with the aim of reaching a framework
convention in time for signing at the Rio Conference in
January 1991 The Commonwealth Parliament's Senate Standing Committee
on Industry, Science and Technology released its report
on reducing the impact of the greenhouse effect Rescue
the Future. The report made numerous recommendations
regarding renewable energy development and energy
January 1992 Reports by the three chairs of the Australian ESD
process were presented on intersectoral and greenhouse
10-12 February The seventh session of the IPCC was held in Geneva,
1992 Switzerland. Following the meeting the IPCC released a
supplement on areas identified as requiring revision.
May 1992 The Australian Interim Planning Target (Toronto target)
to stabilise emissions of greenhouse gases to 1988
levels by the year 2000 was included in Schedule 5 of
the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment and
endorsed at the May 1992 Premiers Conference.
9 May 1992 At INC 5 in New York, USA, 42 countries agreed to adopt
the final text of the FCCC.
June 1992 The IPCC Supplementary Report of 1992 was released to
coincide with the UNFCCC in Rio de Janeiro. The report
added new quantitative information on the climatic
effect of aerosols in dampening global warming,
estimating the 'best estimate' of warming to 2C by 2100
compared to 1990 temperatures. This represented a one
third reduction on IPCC estimates presented in 1990.
Similarly, the 'best estimate' for sea level rises
estimated at 0.5 metres by 2100 compared to 1990 sea
levels. This represented a 25 per cent reduction on the
1990 best estimate.
3-15 June 1992 The UNCED Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil. Australia and 153 other nations out of the 161
countries attending signed the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The initial
agreed target was a stabilisation of greenhouse gas
emissions at 1990 levels by 2000. The concept of Joint
Implementation or Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ)
was introduced in the lead up to the Rio Conference and
formally adopted into the text of the UNFCCC.
3-15 June 1992 Annex I Countries include members of the OECD, some
other economically developed countries and 'other
parties' which are the former centrally planned
economies in transition to market economies. Australia
was designated as an Annex I country.
Developing are not classified under either
Countries Annex I or Annex II.
Australia was represented by the Minister for Arts,
Sports, the Environment and Territories, Mrs Ros Kelly,
accompanied by the Minister for Overseas Trade, Mr John
Kerin, and the Minister for Resources, Mr Alan
Griffiths. Sir Ninian Stephen, the leader of the
Australian delegation at the Preparatory Committee
meetings, was the senior participant of the 49
November 1992 The IPCC met in Harare, Zimbabwe focussing on science,
impacts and macroeconomics.
December 1992 The National Greenhouse Response Strategy (NGRS) was
released by the Federal Government endorsed at the
Council of Australian Governments (CoAG) meeting. The
key elements of the NGRS relied on voluntary measures
and 'no regrets' strategies. No regrets means that the
measures taken have net benefits (or at least no net
cost) in addition to addressing the enhanced greenhouse
The Interim Planning Target (Toronto target) was
endorsed at the CoAG meeting.
The Australian National Strategy for ESD was released.
December 1992 The Commonwealth Parliament's Senate Standing Committee
(cont.) on Industry, Science and Technology released its report
Gas and Electricity Combining Efficiency and Greenhouse,
which recommended that natural gas should be used where
possible for power generation.
7 Dec 1992 The CoAG endorsed the National Greenhouse Response
Strategy and agreed to publication of the document.
30 December 1992 Australia became the ninth country to ratify the UNFCCC.
16 March 1993 Australia's Ambassador for the Environment and Permanent
Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ms Penny Wensley,
was elected to a position of Vice Chair of the INC on
Climate Change during the meeting of the committee in
New York, USA.
21 December 1993 The necessary fiftieth country ratified the UNFCCC, Treaty Text, Article 2
hence the convention entered into force 90 days later of UNFCCC, Information
(21 March 1994). Countries were not legally bound by the Unit on Climate Change,
Convention, but the stated target was to stabilise Switzerland.
greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2000. The
objective of the UNFCCC was to acheive 'stabilization of
greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a
level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic
interference with the climate system'.
7-18 February The ninth session of INC (INC 9), which reviewed the
1994 adequacy of current commitments by industrialised
countries, was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The USA and
other countries called the FCCC 'inadequate' in
addressing future reductions (post 2000) of greenhouse
21 March 1994 The UNFCCC came into force.
16 June 1994 Prime Minister Paul Keating convened a round table
meeting of non government organisations (NGOs) as part
of the ESD strategy. The main issue raised by NGOs was
Australia's commitment to and progress in reducing
greenhouse gas emissions.
21 June 1994 Federal Environment Minister Senator John Faulkner
announced the appointment of a panel to advise on
greenhouse strategies amid growing friction between
business and conservation groups. The panel was headed
by Professor Paul Greenfield of Queensland University
with representatives from consumer, conservationist,
union, business and industry bodies.
22-31 August 1994 INC 10 was held in Geneva, Switzerland. It negotiated
the possible introduction of European Union and AOSIS
21 Sept 1994 Federal Environment Minister Senator John Faulkner
lodged Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory
with the FCCC Secretariat along with Australia's
National Communication on Climate Change. The inventory
comprised a six volume document which concluded that
Australia's greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 were 572
million tonnes CO2 equivalent. The inventory forecast
that in 2000 there would be 654 million tonnes CO2
equivalent of emissions a 14 per cent increase. The
Inventory formed part of Australia's First National
Communication, a requirement under the Climate Change
6-17 February The climate change convention INC 11 was held in New
1995 York, USAA, in which developing countries such as China
and the OPEC group expressed concern over moves to
strengthen their commitments.
21 February 1995 The three day Asia Pacific Leaders Conference on Climate
Change in Manila, Philippines led to the Manila
declaration which called upon developed countries to
reduce gaseous emissions to 20 per cent less than 1990
emissions by 2005.
29 March 1995 Federal Environment Minister Senator John Faulkner
announced the release of Greenhouse 21C, which consisted
of additional greenhouse response measures by the
Federal Government at a total cost of $63 million.
Greenhouse 21C set targets to reduce the increase in
greenhouse gas emissions to 17 million tonnes CO2
equivalent between 1990 and 2000, or 3 per cent above
stabilisation (close to the target agreed to at the
Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro). The package was
released prior to Senator Faulkner's attendance at the
First Conference of the Parties (CoP) in Berlin which
resulted in the Berlin Mandate.
27 March-6 April The first CoP to FCCC (CoP 1) met in Berlin, Germany. A Treaty Text, Article 2a
1995 result of CoP 1 was the Berlin Mandate which expressed of COP 1.
concerns about the adequacies of countries' current http://www.erin.gov.au/p
commitments under FCCC resulted from CoP 1. The Berlin ortfolio/esd/climate/
Mandate emerged with the aim of strengthening the international/mandate.htm
commitment of developed nations (the FCCC Annex 1
countries) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within
time frames 2005, 2010 and 2020, but without binding
targets. The Berlin Mandate also stated the need to take
'into account the differences in starting points and
approaches, economic structures and resource bases, the
need to maintain strong and sustainable economic growth,
available technologies and other individual
circumstances, as well as the need for equitable and
appropriate contributions by each of these Parties to
the global effort'. Thus the mandate accepted the
concept of differentiated targets but specifically
stated the need to set quantified limitations and
reduction objectives within specified time frames. The
Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate (AGBM) was
established at CoP 1.
May 1995 Mr Howard Bamsey was appointed Australia's Ambassador
for the Environment, based in The Hague, Netherlands.
21-25 August 1995 The initial meeting of the Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin
Mandate (AGBM 1) was held in Geneva, Switzerland.
23 October 1995 Federal Environment Minister Senator John Faulkner
announced that more than 50 major companies and industry
associations had committed themselves to develop action
plans to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions as part of
the Greenhouse Challenge program.
27-29 November The fifth session of IPCC Working Group 1 was held in Climate Change 1995,
1995 Madrid, Spain. A key outcome of this was the IPCC Summary for
'Summary for Policymakers' (part of the second IPCC Policymakers, Technical
Assessment report), which concluded that 'the balance of Summary of the Working
evidence suggests a discernible human influence on Group I Report, IPCC,
global climate'. This was the first scientific consensus WMO, UNEP.
reached agreeing that anthropogenic climate change was
11-15 December At the IPCC 11 meeting in Rome, Italy, the second IPCC
1995 Assessment report was released and subsequently
accepted. The second IPCC Assessment report was written
and reviewed by some 2000 scientists and 'experts'
8-19 July 1996 The second CoP to FCCC (CoP 2) met in Geneva,
Switzerland. A ministerial declaration was the key
outcome of CoP 2 (the Geneva Declaration). This stressed
the importance of the scientific findings of the IPCC,
especially the evidence that there was discernible human
influence on climate change. Figures were tabled which
indicated that most countries were unlikely to succeed
in stabilising emissions at the 1990 levels by the 2000
deadline. Federal Environment Minister Senator Robert
Hill attended CoP 2 and presented a statement outlining
Australia's progress in implementing its Annex 1
commitments and views on the Berlin Mandate process
26 November 1996 Senator Warwick Parer, the Minister for Resources and
Energy announced the estimated costs of greenhouse gas
cuts to Australia, as estimated by the Australian Bureau
of Agricultural and Economics (ABARE). Senator Parer
used the costs as justification for the setting of
differentiated targets as provided for in the FCCC and
the Berlin Mandate.
28 February 1997 Federal Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill
announced the release of a discussion paper, 'Future
Directions for Australia's National Greenhouse
Strategy', prepared by the Intergovernmental Committee
on ESD with a deadline for submissions of 11 April 1997.
21-22 April 1997 The European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT)
met in Berlin, Germany and agreed to adopt 'a more
strategic approach' to reducing CO2 emissions from the
transport sector. ECMT's members include 35 European
countries plus Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand,
the Russian Federation and the USA.
20 June 1997 European Union environment ministers adopted a 2005
target to cut 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 7.5 per
23-27 June 1997 Earth Summit II at the United Nations in New York, USA.
Australia, the United States and Japan argued that the
resolution passed at the United Nations Summit should
not restrict or define forthcoming deliberations in
Kyoto in December. President Bill Clinton of the United
States asserted at the Summit on June 27 that the
science is clear and compelling, humans are changing the
global climate. Federal Environment Minister Senator
Robert Hill attended the summit and made a statement on
23 June which included a summary of Australia's effort
in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
20 July 1997 Prime Minister John Howard announced the appointment of
Mr Roger Beale AM, Secretary of the Department of
Environment, Sport and Territories as the Prime
Minister's Representative on Climate Change.
28 July-7 August The subsidiary bodies to the FCCC met in Bonn, Germany.
1-7 August 1997 The seventh meeting of AGBM was held in Bonn, Germany.
10-21 August 1997 The Countdown to Kyoto Conference was hosted by the
Australian APEC Study Centre and the Frontiers of
Freedom Institute (based in the USA) in Canberra. The
Conference addressed the economic consequences of action
on greenhouse, comparing the European Union (EU) target
of a 15 per cent cut by 2010 relative to 1990 emission
levels with less onerous options.
3 September 1997 The Federal Government promoted the success of its
program of voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction
with the release of the first annual results of the
Greenhouse Challenge. The large companies committed to
the Greenhouse Challenge had made substantial progress
in emission reduction.
17-19 September The 16 member South Pacific Forum meeting was held at
1997 Rarotonga in the Cook Islands and attended by Prime
Minister John Howard. Greenhouse and climate change
issues received significant media attention during this
meeting. Australia's position on the reduction of
greenhouse gas emissions differed strongly from the
other 15 nations attending the forum. The AOSIS
(particularly Tuvalu) demands were for a binding 20 per
cent reduction in 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 2005,
while Australia aimed to avoid language calling for
binding targets. At the conclusion of the meeting the
Forum statement did not support the AOSIS proposal but
urged parties to consider it.
22 September 1997 Prime Minister John Howard named senior public servant
Ms Meg McDonald (formerly Australia's chief greenhouse
negotiator) as the Ambassador for the Environment for
1-12 December The third session of CoP (CoP 3) is planned at the Kyoto
1997 International Conference Center in Kyoto, Japan.
International negotiations aimed at developing a
protocol or other legal instrument to provide for action
beyond 2000 and strengthen the commitments of developed
countries are due for completion. A range of emission
changes from an increase of 40 per cent above 1990
levels to a decrease of 20 per cent below 1990 levels in
2010 are being considered for the formal negotiations.
The final text will be called the Kyoto Accord and is
likely to be open for signature on 12 December 1997.
1-12 December The Australian government agrees that the outcome of Press Release, Cost of
1997 negotiations should be consistent with the FCCC and give greenhouse gas cuts,
full expression to all the components of the Berlin Senator Warwick Parer,
Mandate. However, the Australian approach does not Minister for Resources
support the concept of uniform targets, preferring the and Energy, 26 November
'differentiation approach' which emerged in the Berlin 1996.
Mandate. Australia's fundamental concern is that any
uniform 'quantified emission limitation and reduction
objectives' (QELRO) approach would deliver a non-uniform
economic outcome across the range of committed
countries, and those countries feeling victim to the
system would be, as a consequence, less committed to the
Convention in the long term. Australia wants to ensure
that the costs of mitigating climate change are
distributed fairly and exhibit distributive justice.
1998-1999 A fourth session of CoP (CoP 4) is planned.
2000 The third assessment report of the IPCC is scheduled for
- Climate Change Science : Current Understanding and Uncertainties, Steering Committee of the Climate Change Study, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, February 1995.
- Climate Change 1995, Summary for Policymakers, Technical Summary of the Working Group I Report, IPCC, WMO, UNEP.
- Climate Change 1995, Summary for Policymakers, Technical Summary of the Working Group I Report, IPCC, WMO, UNEP.
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