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Australia to Meet Kyoto Target But Refuses to Sign

Australia to Meet Kyoto Target But Refuses to Sign
CANBERRA - Australia is on track to meet targets set by the global Kyoto Treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions but will still not sign the pact because it ignores key areas of the fight against global warming in developing nations.

Environment Minister Ian Campbell said United Nations talks on global warming -- starting in Argentina on Monday -- should look beyond the 2012 Kyoto deadline -- to cut greenhouse emissions by 5 percent from 1990 levels -- for ways to tackle climate change. Australia accounts for 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Campbell argued that if Australia signed the treaty, jobs would be driven offshore to developing countries where energy use was less efficient and would result in the emission of more of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

"It doesn't work for us and it doesn't work for the environment so the road ahead for us is to make sure the beyond-Kyoto outcomes are far better than the Kyoto protocol," Campbell told reporters on Monday.

Russia ratified the Kyoto pact last month, allowing the treaty to become binding in 2005 because it has been approved by 55 percent of the 126 signatories, which together account for 55 percent of developed countries' carbon dioxide emissions.

But Australia's conservative government has repeatedly said Kyoto could not work because top polluters such as the United States, China and Indonesia would never comply.

The UN Environment Programme says that Kyoto will not be enough, merely braking rising temperatures by 0.1C over the course of the 21st century against a forecast rise of 1.4-5.8C.

"The international consensus tells us you need a 50 to 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gases if you are going to win the battle against climate change. Australia and the rest of the world are going to have to do a lot more," Campbell said.

Australia is one of the world's top carbon dioxide producers on a per-capita basis and its energy resources are a major source of wealth and jobs. Energy exports are worth more than A$24 billion ($17.5 billion) a year.

The Dec. 6-17 UN talks in Buenos Aires between 194 nations will review the UN's 1994 climate change convention, and its goal of limiting greenhouse gases to levels "that would prevent dangerous (human) interference with the climate system."

"The problem with the Kyoto protocol is it totally ignores, almost abandons developing countries. They need economic growth so they can save people from starvation, poverty and hunger, so they can educate their population," Campbell said. "But they need to do so in a carbon constrained environment, they need to do so while the rest of the world is addressing climate change. That's the big challenge no one has found a breakthrough for."

The countries meeting in Argentina will also seek ways to persuade the United States to rejoin the United Nations' fight against global warming and try to involve developing nations like China, India or Brazil.

The United States says it had no plans to rejoin UN efforts on climate change and President George W. Bush pulled out in 2001 from the 128-nation Kyoto protocol, arguing it was too expensive and wrongly excluded developing nations.

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