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Popular Environmental Myths Exposed

The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministerfor the Environment and Heritage

15 July 1999

Apocalypse and conspiracy theories have no place in any serious debate on Australia's environmental policy, Dr Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage said today.

Dr Stone said there had been a rash of newspaper articles in recent days reporting spurious claims that "the Barrier Reef is dying" or that "Sydney will be permanently flooded within 100 years", with little or no scientific evidence.

"We've heard all these far-fetched claims before. The vast majority amount to nothing. On the whole, they are simply about peddling controversy and popular myth to sell newspapers."

Dr Stone said some of the stories revolved around the impact of global warming, a widely debated scientific field of study, and the Commonwealth Government's perceived lack of action.

"The recent The Age article 'Global Warmings' (8 July 1999) is a perfect example. It's short on reason, but strong on popular conspiracy and apocalypse," Dr Stone said.

"The article that suggests Australia somehow hoodwinked its fellow travellers at the Kyoto Climate Summit by obtaining agreement that we curb our projected 40% increase in greenhouse emissions post 1990 to no more than an 8% increase."

"In fact, achieving such an outcome requires a revolution in domestic energy consumption and exports in Australia. Something the Howard Government has set out doggedly to achieve," Dr Stone said.

In partnership with the community, the Federal Government has delivered a range of greenhouse initiatives through the $180 million Safeguarding the Future initiative to meet its international greenhouse commitments.

"Federal funding for initiatives like the Cities for Climate Protection Program has seen over 50 Australian local governments join the world-wide effort tackle greenhouse issues. This is the fastest growing level of participation anywhere in the world".

"This is a fantastic case of thinking globally and acting locally," Dr Stone said.

An extra $1 billion dollars in funding to improve urban air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions has also been delivered through amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Bill. Measure include:

· 'clean fuel' credits for natural gas and other alternative transport fuels,
· a 50% rebate for conversion of commercial vehicles to natural gas and LPG,
· a 100% excise credit for rail transport,
· ultra low sulphur diesel production to be mandatory by 2006,
· $60 million for remote power generation to replace existing diesel systems with renewable systems, and
· an additional $400 million for the Australian Greenhouse Office over the next four years
The Federal Government recently established a 2% renewable electricity target by 2010, providing $45 million in competitive grants to commercial enterprises to develop tidal, solar and wind power projects.

Australia is now exporting this renewable energy expertise to countries such as Chile, Indonesia and Mauritius, through the Government's International Greenhouse Partnerships Program.

Dr Stone said these initiatives complemented the $1.5 billion already committed through the Natural Heritage Trust, the largest environmental package ever delivered in Australia.

"In addition, we have the world's first ocean's policy and are committed, with the states and territories, to reversing the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover by June 2001."

"It's about time Australians heard about some of the good work being done across all levels of Australian government, by business and in households, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

"Australians, on the whole, match this Government in taking the issues very seriously indeed," Dr Stone said.

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