Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Prime Minister Rudd playing hard ball with US

KEVIN Rudd has demanded the US join the rest of the developed world in embracing targets to slash carbon emissions, insisting all developed nations must accept their responsibility for fighting climate change.

The Prime Minister told the UN climate change conference in Bali that global warming was threatening Australian natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and rainforests, killing rivers and exposing people to more frequent and ferocious bushfires.

Mr Rudd's comments yesterday came as the US became a focus of increasing criticism at the conference, with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono warning that the push to tackle climate change would fail without a greater commitment from the world's richest nation, which is the only developed country yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol for cutting carbon emissions.

Mr Rudd, whose cabinet ratified Kyoto last week in its first decision after its victory in last month's election, did not mention the US by name yesterday but left no doubt as to his expectations of the world's largest carbon emitter.

"We need all developed nations - all developed nations - those within the framework of Kyoto and those outside that framework - to embrace comparable efforts in order to bring about the global outcomes the world now expects of us," Mr Rudd said.

"We expect all developed countries to embrace a further set of binding emissions targets and we need this meeting at Balito map out the process andtimeline in which this will happen."

Hundreds of delegates from around the world are meeting in Bali to establish a road map for the negotiation of a new emissions reduction deal, which will take effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Negotiations must be complete by 2009.

Mr Rudd, in his first international outing as Prime Minister, continued to refuse to quantify his preferred targets yesterday, despite a push within the conference for participants to agree to adopt emission reduction targets of between 25 per cent and 40 per cent by 2020.

A reference to this medium-term target is likely to be removed from a statement being negotiated at the conference after pressure from the US, Japan and Russia.

Mr Rudd has committed to only a 60 per cent reduction by 2050, but has reserved the right to delay a decision on short- and medium-term action until he receives a report from economist Ross Garnaut next year.

However, Mr Rudd significantly hardened his climate-change rhetoric, leaving no doubt he will embrace further cuts and warning that the consequences of inaction on climate change would be more serious than the cost of action.

"For Australians, climate change is no longer a distant threat, it's no longer a scientific theory," Mr Rudd said.

"Its an emerging reality. Our rivers are dying, bushfires are more ferocious and more frequent, our unique natural wonders - the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, our rainforests - are now at risk."
He said the challenges of climate change transcended "the old ideological, political and developmental divide" and demanded global action.

"The community of nations must reach agreement. There is no plan B. There is no other planet that we can escape to. We only have this one," he said.

He also acknowledged the legitimacy of the aspirations of developing nations to improve the lives of their citizens, committing his Government to fighting global poverty and assisting the developing world on climate change with financial incentives and sharing of new technologies.

After warm applause from the conference in recognition of his decision to reverse the Howard government's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Mr Rudd said his Government would revive Australia's long tradition of involvement in multilateral engagement.

"In the past we've been willing to put our shoulder to the wheel," Mr Rudd said. "What I say to this conference is that under the Government that I lead, we are doing so again."

Dr Yudhoyono, host of the conference, said all developed countries must be involved in the post-Kyoto framework.

"We must ensure that the United States of America, as the world's biggest economy ... and the world leader in technology is part of such a post-2012 arrangement," Dr Yudhoyono said.

"Because, otherwise we will not be able to effectively address the climate-change issue."

He also called on developed nations to accept that poorer nations must continue to develop.

While developing nations had to do their part in tackling climate change, advanced nations needed to understand their difficulty, he said.

"We must keep in mind that many in developing countries worry not about cars, airconditioning or cell phones, but whether they will have food on their plates," he said. "We must all do something differently and do something more."

Dr Yudhoyono said Indonesia was devoting its efforts to preserving 22 million hectares of rainforest to provide carbon sinks. It had planted 89 million trees this year and was cracking down on illegal logging.

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