Mon, Oct 29, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Australian environment minister in hot water over Kyoto protocol remarks

AP , SYDNEY

Australia's environment minister refused to say yesterday whether he believed Australia should belatedly ratify the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia and the US are the only industrialized countries that have not signed on to the treaty setting targets to reduce carbon pollution, agreed at a UN climate change meeting at Kyoto, Japan, in 1997.

But the Weekend Australian and the Financial Review reported on Saturday that Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged his Cabinet colleagues to ratify the agreement during a meeting six weeks ago.

Turnbull's proposal received some Cabinet support, but was largely rebuffed by ministers, the newspaper said, citing unidentified government personnel.

LEAK ALLEGED

News Corp newspapers accused Turnbull yesterday of placing his government's re-election plans in disarray by leaking the Cabinet disagreement to the press.

Turnbull yesterday denied leaking to the press and declined to say what had occurred in Cabinet.

He also repeatedly refused to say whether he agreed with Australian Prime Minister John Howard's decision to reject Kyoto.

"It's not for me to express personal opinions," Turnbull told Sky News television.

Howard yesterday refused to say what had happened in Cabinet.

"What the world needs, what Australia needs, is a new international agreement that binds all the major emitters including China and the United States," Howard told Nine Network television.

He said Pacific Rim leaders including those of the US and China had made a start at the APEC summit he chaired in Sydney last month when they agreed pursue nonbinding aspirational goals to reduce carbon pollution.

OPPOSITION PLEDGE

The opposition Labor Party has promised to ratify Kyoto if it wins elections next month. Labor is leading Howard's coalition in opinion polls.

Saturday's newspaper report said Turnbull told his colleagues they would gain credibility and lose nothing by accepting the Kyoto targets.

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