October 31, 2005

Australia rules out new post-Kyoto limits

By James Grubel

CANBERRA (Reuters) - 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

"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


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

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

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 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

The Pacific partnership, which includes Japan, China, India
and South Korea, is due to meet in Australia in the new year.