Australia, already the world's biggest polluter per capita and a Kyoto climate pact hold-out, will exceed its greenhouse gas targets within three years, an independent study said on Friday.
CANBERRA -- Australia, already the world's biggest polluter per capita and a Kyoto climate pact hold-out, will exceed its greenhouse gas targets within three years, an independent study said on Friday.
Australia's conservative government along with the United States refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol, but insists the country is on track anyway to meet its target of 108 percent of 1990-level greenhouse emissions by 2012.
But Australia's Climate Institute said greenhouse emissions have risen by 22.5 million tonnes over the past three years, akin to putting five million extra cars on the country's roads. "We were one of the two or three countries which got an increase in pollution at Kyoto. We are drifting away from even the Kyoto target," Executive Director John Connor said.
Prime Minister John Howard faces re-election later in the year and opinion polls show climate change is a major issue for 80 percent of voters.
The country is suffering its worst-known drought and most major cities have water restrictions in place. Food prices are also set to rise because of a lack of water for irrigation.
Howard has announced a raft of measures to cut emissions, but argues that signing Kyoto would unfairly damage Australia's fossil fuel-reliant economy and cost jobs.
"We are being driven by the Europeans. They don't have vast reserves of fossil fuels, they don't have a 20 million population and be the largest coal exporter in the world. This economy is unique," Howard told local radio on Friday.
Australia's government expects greenhouse emissions will reach 603 million tonnes by 2010. An inventory of emissions to be released next week would show Australia was on track to meet its Kyoto level, government sources told Reuters.
But the inventory would only count figures for 2004-05, Connor said, and institute analysis showed a recent spike in emissions to 588 million tonnes driven by the country's mining boom, just under the upper limit set by Kyoto.
Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions were expected to grow to 22 percent above 1990 levels by 2020, Connor said.
Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the institute study was based on analysis of the energy sector only, ignoring reductions in land clearing and agriculture.
"It is sloppy, it's a guesstimate," Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. He said Canada, with a similar economy to Australia's, would exceed its Kyoto target by 35 percent.
But opposition lawmaker Peter Garrett, who is leading the assault on the government's climate record, said Australia received a generous Kyoto offer to help it reach its targets.
"The fact that we possibly won't is a huge wake-up call for the Howard government and for Australia, frankly, because it means climate change policy in this country is not working," he said.
A 2004 OECD report said every Australian generated 27.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year. The figure was 27 percent higher than for Americans -- the world's biggest overall polluters -- and more than double the average for industrialised nations.