The Heat Is Online

Australia Shuns Kyoto Protocol

World's biggest coal exporter Australia dumps Kyoto

Planetark.org, June 6, 2002

CANBERRA - Australia, the world's largest coal exporter, will not ratify the Kyoto climate change treaty aimed at cutting greenhouse gase emissions, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday.

Australia's rejection of the Kyoto treaty come a day after Japan ratified the treaty and urged nations like Russia and the United States, the world's biggest polluter, to sign up.

Until now the Australian government had been undecided about whether it would join the list of about 50 countries which have endorsed the 1997 U.N. treaty designed to reduce heat-trapping gases blamed for rising global temperatures.

"It is not in Australia's interests to ratify the Kyoto protocol," Howard told parliament.

"For us to ratify the protocol would cost us jobs and damage our industry. That is why the Australian government will continue to oppose ratification," Howard said.

Under the pact, industrialised nations must cut emissions by an average five percent by 2012 from 1990 levels, but 55 nations producing 55 percent of world carbon dioxide emissions - the main greenhouse gas - must ratify the pact to make it binding.

But at Kyoto, Australia in fact won the right to increase its emissions by eight percent above 1990 levels.

Yet Howard argued the arrangements of the Kyoto pact would not work while it did not impose reduction targets on developing nations and excluded countries like the United States.

Howard said Australia's position in the context of Kyoto was unusual because Australia was a developed nation that was also a massive net exporter of energy.

"The idea that you can sign up to a protocol that would facilitate the export of dirty industries from this country into developing countries and therefore facilitate the flight of jobs from this country...would hurt this country," he said.

Howard has gradually backed away from the treaty, which Australia signed but refused to ratify, since Washington abandoned the pact, saying it would harm its economy, and instead drew up a voluntary domestic plan.

Howard's government has come under increasing pressure from carbon-intensive industries like mining to stay out of the pact.

Australia signed a partnership with Washington in February to find practical approaches to dealing with climate change but denied this indicated Canberra was shunning Kyoto.