Australia Rules Out New Post-Kyoto Limits
CANBERRA Australia said on Monday negotiating new greenhouse gas emission levels for the Kyoto Protocol is a waste of time, dampening hopes a major environment meeting in Canada will set new targets beyond 2012.
Australia's Environment Minister Ian Campbell said most countries would fail to meet their Kyoto targets and trying to negotiate new limits at an upcoming meeting in Montreal would achieve nothing.
"The concept of getting up another negotiation process for caps, targets and timetables is a terrible waste of time," Campbell told Reuters in an interview.
Australia has been a trenchant critic of the Kyoto Protocol and, along with the United States, has refused to ratify the pact. Kyoto, which only came into force in February after years of delays, requires developed nations to cut greenhouse emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
But the United States and Australia say setting targets is bad for business and excluding big developing nations, such as China and India, from the pact's first phase is a mistake. China is among the world's top polluters.
Campbell will be among officials from 150 countries to attend the Montreal climate change meeting to discuss how to take the Kyoto pact beyond 2012, when the first phase ends. One of the aims will be to work out how to entice developing nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The meeting begins November 28.
Campbell said a meeting of environment ministers in Ottawa in September made it clear that new emission limits would not work, and countries such as China and India were unlikely to sign up.
"There is a consensus that the caps, targets and timetables approach is flawed. If we spend the next five years arguing about that, we'll be fiddling and negotiating while Rome burns," Campbell said.
Australia's peak environment group the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), however, wants Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, set up a system of emissions trading to encourage cleaner industry, and set binding limits on emissions.
"We'd like to see Australia ratify the Kyoto Protocol. We think there is a compelling case for it. We'd love to see the U.S. do the same. But we're not going to see that at this conference of parties," ACF chief executive Don Henry told Reuters.
RELIANCE ON COAL
With a population of 20 million, Australia accounts for only 1.4 percent of global greenhouse emissions, but has the third highest levels of greenhouse pollution per capita due to burning coal and oil in power plants, factories and cars.
While not supporting Kyoto, Australia remains on track to meet its target of an 8 percent increase in 1990 emission levels by 2012 -- a target that recognised the country's high reliance on coal, which is used to generate 85 percent of Australia's electricity.
But the Kyoto target will be met mainly due to new state-based restrictions on land clearing by farmers rather than any growth in clean technology or binding limits on industry.
The government's Australian Greenhouse Office predicts emissions from electricity generation will rise by 70 percent between 1990 and 2020, with transport emissions to rise by 59 percent.
Campbell accepts global warming is a real threat, but believes the solution lies in incentives to encourage new, clean technology rather than measures that penalise heavy polluters or force industry to cut emissions.
Australia has set aside A$75.5 million ($57 million) to encourage solar energy technology, and A$500 million in grants for commercially viable greenhouse gas abatement technology.
He has also ruled out any Australia-based emissions trading in the near future, saying to do so would require caps on industry that would lead to job losses in Australia.
But Campbell said a global market in carbon trading would have to be part of the long-term global efforts to fight greenhouse gas.
"The biggest thing we can do is encourage those markets where (carbon trading) exists to become efficient and effective, and then see them proliferate," he said. "And then, 15 or 20 years down the track, you might have an effective global market."
Campbell will push Australia's position for incentives rather than penalties at the inaugural meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, set up by Australia and the United States as an alternative to Kyoto.
The Pacific partnership, which includes Japan, China, India and South Korea, is due to meet in Australia in the new year. ($1 A$1.32)