Australia to push for 'New Kyoto' in Asia
CANBERRA After repeatedly blocking domestic carbon trading, Australia said on Thursday it would now push for Asia-wide emissions trading to combat global warming as part of a planned "new-Kyoto" pact.
The turn-around by Australia, which refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases, comes as an opinion poll showed most Australians believe the government should sign Kyoto.
Environment Minister Ian Campbell said Australia wanted to forge a "New Kyoto" out of a six-nation alliance of the world's biggest polluters -- China, India, the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan.
"Working within our region is a good place to start," Campbell said, adding an Asia-wide scheme would be a stepping stone to a comprehensive global carbon trading framework.
"A very clear vision for Australia being part of a constructive post-Kyoto, beyond-Kyoto, framework, is something that we do need to get everybody in," Campbell told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Professor Warwick McKibbin, a central bank board member, said a global carbon trade framework would never occur unless Australia and other developed nations took the lead.
"You need to start at the national level and move out from there," McKibbin told the Australian Financial Review.
A British report on climate change this week warned of an environment-wrought global depression unless action was taken now to combat global warming.
Using calculations in the British report, Australia exported A$61 billion ($52 billion) worth of climate change every year in the form of coal exports totalling 233 million tonnes, or nearly a third of the world total.
A Newspoll done for environmental groups, including Greenpeace, showed 79 percent of Australians wanted their conservative government to sign Kyoto. Nine in 10 people wanted a shift from coal-fired power to renewable energy.
SPURRED INTO ACTION
Professor Tony Owen, from the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets at the University of NSW, said the government appeared to have been spurred into action on climate change by fast-shifting public opinion.
"A cynical person might suggest that since it's highly unlikely that a number of these (Asian alliance) countries are going to join a carbon-trade scheme, this is a way the Australians can say 'well, we tried'," he told Reuters.
Kyoto obliges about 40 nations to cut emissions by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Australia negotiated a rise in emissions, setting a Kyoto target of limiting emissions to 108 percent of 1990 levels.
Australia, which has failed to ratify Kyoto, is already feeling the brunt of global warming with the worst drought in 100 years eating into economic growth.
But Prime Minister John Howard said signing Kyoto would achieve nothing for Australia, which is the world's 10th largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
"The best way to go in the short term is to clean up the use of fossil fuel. There is a mantra and a mythology about Kyoto," Howard said.
"We need an approach that will achieve the goal, but doesn't disproportionately hurt Australia," he said.
Australia has in the past two weeks announced clean and alternative energy projects worth A$185 million ($143 million). ($1 = A$1.29)