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Friday, November 9, 2012

Australia commits to Kyoto 2 climate change treaty

Australia's Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, today announced that Australia is ready to join a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol first commitment period is due to expire at the end of 2012. The second commitment period will extend the binding international treaty to 2020 when it is envisaged a much broader treaty encompassing developed and developing countries will come into effect. Australia signed the Kyoto Protocol in 2007 at the United Nations Bali meeting shortly after the election of the Labor Government.

"Australia joins as countries around the world are taking action to combat climate change." said Greg Combet. "Joining a second commitment period will ensure Australian businesses have access to international credits under the Clean Development Mechanism, helping Australia reduce emissions at the lowest cost to the economy. "

Signing the agreement for the second commitment period will take place at UN climate change negotiations in Doha, Qatar (26 November to 7 December) - COP18. But signing the agreement comes with a number of conditions including that there is continued progress in international negotiations towards the new 2015 agreement with implementation from 2020, and that the second commitment period is extended to 2020 to match when the new agreement would come into force.

Under this commitment Australia commits to limiting its greenhouse gas emissions from 2013 to 2020 with a Kyoto target consistent with reducing emissions to five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

"In no way does this rule out the option later of moving up Australia’s 2020 target range of 5 to 15 per cent, or 25 per cent, below 2000 levels if Australia’s target conditions relating to the extent of global action are met." said Greg Combet.

The Minister pointed out that joining Kyoto 2 does not constrain the role of the independent Climate Change Authority on a national target and carbon budgets for Australia's emissions trading scheme by early 2014.

"As the world increases the extent of its action on climate change, Australia’s domestic scheme means that we have the ability to match that action. Australia joins 36 other countries in planning to take on a Kyoto target to restrain emissions between 2013 and 2020." said Combet.

While this commitment falls a long way short of measures to de-carbonise the Australian economy according to what scientists and economists are saying is required to meet our fair share of emissions reduction, it is definite progress with mechanisms in place to take further action when the next IPCC report is delivered in late 2013 and early 2014 summarising the science and the rate of climate change impacts.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief during the 2009 Copenhagen climate change talks, that the next IPCC report findings would be shocking, based upon conversations he has had with scientists working on the report.

"That report is going to scare the wits out of everyone,'' Mr de Boer said in the only scheduled interview of his visit to Australia. "I'm confident those scientific findings will create new political momentum."

The day before Greg Combet's announcement Minerals and Energy minister Martin Ferguson launched a white paper on Energy which articulated continued development and growth in fossil fuel exports from Coal and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). The present Federal Government while making modest moves to reduce carbon emissions on the one hand, is also ramping up fossil fuel mining for the export market which will have a substantive impact on global emissions when burnt to produce consumer goods many of which are imported to industrialised countries. The launch was interrupted by a satirical anti-coal protest.

Australia's modest climate mitigation actions through carbon pricing, clean energy funding and commitment to the binding Kyoto treaty round 2 will no doubt add a little momentum to climate legislative action in the USA under Obama's second term, and to ongoing goodwill in the United Nations climate negotiations.

Barack Obama in his election night victory speech made specific mention of global warming providing an inkling that it may be on his agenda for action in his second term. "We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet," But it remains to be seen whether he can negotiate action through a hostile Republican controlled House of Representatives, in still difficult economic times.

Australia too provides an example for the United States of how carbon pricing was achieved despite the Global Financial Collapse, a vociferous climate denial fear campaign combined with a right wing anti-taxation agenda and an overly negative political campaign by Opposition leader Tony Abbott.

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