Alliance on emissions

Australia inks pact with the US outside the Kyoto Protocol

Published: Monday 15 April 2002

australia has signed an agreement with the us to establish a 'climate action partnership' that seeks to find practical approaches to deal with climate change. The alliance has been established outside the Kyoto Protocol -- an international agreement binding the industrialised world to limit its greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions.

By doing so, Australia has extended its tacit approval of the us rejection of the protocol in 2001. It has also welcomed the widely criticised us plan to tackle global warming, which was presented in mid-February 2002. Though put forth as an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol, the plan does not stipulate mandatory cuts in total emissions as sought by the Kyoto treaty. The us variant, instead, recommends voluntary efforts to reduce ghg intensity -- measured as emissions per unit of economic activity. This will actually not lead to any reduction in total emissions.

"The partnership will focus on such issues as emissions measurement and accounting, climate change science, stationary energy technologies, engagement with business to create economically efficient climate change solutions, agriculture and land management, and collaboration with developing countries to deal with climate change," said Richard Boucher, spokesperson of the us department of state.

Australia's minister for environment David Kemp said that while the country had not abandoned the Kyoto Protocol, it had a lot in common with the us stand. "Kyoto, unfortunately, is not a proposal which is going to involve all countries...we need to recognise that if we're going to get global action, we need to see action obviously on the part of the us as well as on that of developing countries," he added.

A key us and Australian criticism of the Kyoto Protocol is that it does not commit developing countries to reduce their emissions. Developing countries feel that the North is responsible for the problem.

Australian opposition politicians and environmentalists have denounced the partnership, saying that it was another example of the country's unwillingness to crack down on its own rising ghg emissions. "Australia's ghg emissions are rising. The government doesn't want to take serious action to deal with the issue and is just trying to hide behind us President George Bush's coat-tails. It has nothing very concrete on actually bringing about emission reductions," said Greenpeace spokesperson Frances MacGuire.

Greens senator Bob Brown termed it as a blatant concession to the industry. "Kemp's first big act as environment minister is to endorse the Australian coal and us oil industry opposition to mandated pollution control laws," he said. Australia is the largest per capita emitter at 27.6 tonnes.

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