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This article originally appeared in The Guardian on 8 July 2017.


Photograph: John Weller/Antarctic Ocean Alliance

Shortly before World Ocean Day, and a special UN meeting to address threats facing oceans, the US president, Donald Trump, announced that the country was walking away from the Paris agreement. Here in Australia, there was a welcome bipartisan commitment to stay the course, with Malcolm Turnbull defending Australia’s participation in this critically important environmental pact.

But Australia’s environmental diplomacy needs to be more than just defensive. Taking a cue from French president Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to “make the planet great again” by determined leadership on climate action, Australia should likewise move on to the front foot. And one place where it can make a big contribution is in its own backyard – Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

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In February 2017 the Sydney Environment Institute and the Balanced Enterprise Research Network at the University of Sydney convened a workshop featuring the distinguished climate scientist Professor Michael Mann from Penn State University. Mann is well known both for his world-leading climate research and also for his highly effective advocacy on the frontline of climate politics in the US. He has been the lightning rod for attacks from those who oppose any policies to address the climate crisis but has stood his ground and become one of the most important global voices on this vital issue.

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Image credit: Parliament of Australia

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties is currently inquiring into Australia's proposed ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. On 27 September 2016 I gave evidence to a hearing of JSCOT. What follows is my opening statement to the Committee. My written submission to JSCOT can be found here, and the full transcript of the oral evidence is in Hansard

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