Australian Outlook

In this section

Episode 63: Climate Change and Australia, with Howard Bamsey

17 Dec 2020
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
GWP Chair Howard Bamsey. Source: Global Water Partnership

Allan and Darren welcome Professor Howard Bamsey to the podcast, who offers unmatched experience regarding Australia’s international engagement with the issue of climate change.

Beginning his professional life in DFAT, Howard has worked in almost all the parts of the Australian government dealing with climate change, including the Departments of the Environment and Climate Change. He has been CEO of the Australian Greenhouse Office, Australia’s special envoy on climate change, the Ambassador for the Environment, Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and Special Adviser on Green Growth to AusAid. He was director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute, is currently chair of the Global Water Partnership and Honorary Professor in the School of Regulation and Global Governance at the ANU, and is a member of the boards of the Climate Policy Initiative and Climate Works Australia.

For those listeners who do not follow it closely, the conversation begins with an introduction to the issue of climate change. What is the scale and urgency of the climate challenge the planet confronts right now? What are the institutions and processes through which the international community is trying to address these challenges? In answering these questions, Howard describes Australia’s contribution to the international architecture that now exists.

Yet the current Australian government’s position remains an outlier, especially regarding a commitment to carbon neutrality, why? How “pragmatic” are Australians in international negotiations? How does the issue of climate change affect our relationship with our neighbours in the South Pacific – what are we doing, and what can we do better?

The conversation turns to domestic politics – is climate change a “culture war” issue? And what strategy should the international community adopt to shift Australian policy?

Looking ahead to the next COP meeting in Glasgow, Allan asks Howard what a Biden presidency will mean for Australia, while Darren asks what role the UN and international cooperation can play into the future in facilitating investment. Finally, what does Howard say to young people about the trajectory of climate change action?

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Mitchell McIntosh for help with research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Horward Bamsey, short biography:

Gideon Rachman, “The perilous politics of climate change”, Financial Times, 1 July 2019: