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Australia: Backing Out of Climate Protocol

Environment News Service
June 6th, 2002

CANBERRA, Australia -- "It is not in Australia's interests to ratify the Kyoto Protocol." With those words to Parliament Wednesday, on World Environment Day, Australian Prime Minister John Howard put the world on notice that Australia will not join other industrialized countries in the international treaty to limit global warming.

"The reason it is not in Australia's interests to ratify the Kyoto Protocol is that, because the arrangements currently exclude -- and are likely under present settings to continue to exclude -- both developing countries and the United States, for us to ratify the protocol would cost us jobs and damage our industry." the Prime Minister said.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, an additon to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 37 industrialized nations have agreed to cut their emissions of six greenhouse gases linked to global warming. Thirty-nine nations were to have been governed by the original agreement signed in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, but the Bush administration in March 2001 said that the United States would not ratify, and now Australia, too, has backed away from the agreement.

The industrialized countries that ratify the agreement must reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the five year period 2008 to 2012. Countries of the European Union, which ratified the protocol on Friday, agreed to cut their emissions by eight percent.

Australia had secured the right to increase its emissions to a limit of eight percent by 2012, but even that target is not generous enough for the Howard government to support ratification.

Prime Minister Howard told Parliament, "One of the things that makes Australia almost unique in this context is that as a developed country we are a major net exporter of energy. The idea that you can sign up to a protocol that would facilitate the export of dirty industries from this country into developing countries and thereby facilitate the flight of jobs from this country..."

Australia is the world's leading coal exporter and has large natural gas reserves as well. Australia's proven oil and natural gas reserves have nearly doubled in recent years, and the country is now the third largest liquid natural gas exporter in the Asia-Pacific region.

Australia has joined the United States in its global warming policies, making an agreement with the U.S. in February to collaborate on voluntary and technical means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The continental country is predicted to suffer severe effects of global warming which is already becoming evident. A report by Climate Action Network Australia in February said three of Australia's World Heritage Areas are showing signs of significant damage due to climate change -- Kakadu National Park, the Wet Tropics of Queensland, and the Great Barrier Reef.

Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain, will lose its alpine environment due to global warming, the Climate Action Network report predicts.

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