Key greenhouse gas emitter Australia yesterday said it would sign up for a second round of the Kyoto Protocol environmental protection treaty, but New Zealand opted out.
Australian Climate Minister Greg Combet made the announcement in a speech to a carbon expo, saying: “Australia is ready to join a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.”
So far, only the EU and several smaller economies have signaled a willingness to agree to a second round of pledges.
Australia is among the world’s worst per capita polluters, with a heavy reliance on coal mining and exports, and most of its electricity coming from coal-fired power stations.
Although Kyoto — the first global treaty to set binding obligations on wealthy countries to cut emissions — was negotiated in 1997, Australia refused to join for years. It was only when Labor came to power in 2007 that it shifted course.
Combet’s announcement comes ahead of annual negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will take place in Doha, Qatar, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7.
The big issue is renewing commitments under Kyoto after the first round of cuts expires on Dec. 31, although agreement on a new globally binding deal is not expected until 2015 and will not come into force until 2020.
Combet said Australia’s decision was not a blank check and other countries must also step up.
“For Australia, there must be continued progress towards this new agreement by 2015, from both the developing and developed countries alike,” he said.
“The Kyoto Protocol is not enough on its own — it will cover less than 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and only from a number of developed economies,” he said.
“So to be effective, the new 2015 agreement needs to cover all the major emissions sources,” he said.
“From 2020 we expect all countries — including the United States, the European Union, China, Japan, India, Indonesia and South Korea — will be part of a new agreement to reduce emissions,” he said.
However, New Zealand said it was not signing up, with Climate Change Minister Tim Groser opting to instead manage emissions under the UNFCCC, which does not include binding commitments.
Kyoto is a talisman for developing countries, but a growing number of developed nations say it is unfair because its binding emissions targets do not affect emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil.