While climate change is now a mainstream issue within environmental discourse, its resolution remains hotly contested at the international, national and state levels. As the climate change issue has evolved from being constructed as environmentalist and/or extremist hype into a scientifically grounded claim, the Australian government has been forced to engage with the issue. Indeed, in 2007, the Australian Federal election was touted as the world’s first climate change election (Rootes 2008). This chapter is a review of Australia’s foreign policy agenda in relation to climate change over the past 15 years. Through the use of discourse approaches, the research for this chapter aimed to further understand climate change as a foreign policy problem, and sought to examine how far climate change has become a central issue not only in domestic environmental discourse, but also in political strategy and foreign policy. The research reveals the significant role discourses played in the establishment and implementation of climate change agendas within Australian foreign policy. Discourse was thus used to progress domestic agendas, and consolidate the most important aspect of Australia’s foreign policy, namely its relationship with the United States. This chapter adds to the aim of this book to illuminate case study examples

of how foreign policy can be understood in relation to the issue of climate change. The chapter highlights the overlap between domestic and foreign policy agendas in Australia and how the one has influenced the other. This case study also shows how international environmental protection agendas are driven partly by the discourses that frame them, and created at local and national scales. In this case, analysis shows that discourse about climate change has largely determined how the Australian government chose, at various points, to join international efforts to address it, and indeed other environmental problems. Thus, insights have been obtained into how the actors and institutions within Australia helped forge the progress of international initiatives such as Kyoto.

This chapter is a historical discourse analysis of a wide range of news media and other texts relating to Australia’s foreign and climate change policy. The

media releases. Analysis of the election campaign (October 14-November 24 2007) is also informed by a review of media articles that discuss climate change policy by utilizing Factiva and Media Monitors. An initial search was undertaken of all Australian papers during the period June 2006December 2007 for references to climate change. This initial search yielded over 10,000 citations. A more refined search using the terms “climate change,” “climate policy,” “Kyoto Protocol,” “carbon emissions” and “carbon trading” yielded 125 articles, and it is these texts that were subject to in depth discourse analysis. A discourse analytical approach was also employed to synthesize the information collected. The discourse analysis was conducted according to the steps identified by

Yanow (2004: 4): (1) the identification of the artifacts (language, objects, acts) that are carriers of meaning in a specific policy analysis; (2) the identification of communities of meaning relevant to the policy issues, i.e. who is producing texts, and what kind of policy communities are involved; (3) the identification of the relevant discourses, with the aim of exploring the relationship between discourse and social reality through examining how texts draw on different discourses; and (4) the identification of points of conflict and how they reflect different interpretations by different communities. MacDonnell (1986) defines discourse as follows: