Australia, US form climate change pact: report
Australia and the United States , who have been criticised for remaining outside the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gases, have now reportedly formed their own pact on climate change.
A report in The Australian newspaper claims they have joined with other heavy greenhouse polluters, China, India and ,South Korea to focus on scientific advancements to ease the problem.
The Federal Government and the Bush administration have flatly refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol saying the treaty will damage industry and coal exports.
A Government report released yesterday warns of damage to Australia 's ecosystems, agriculture and economy because of climate change.
The United States alone contributes about 15 per cent of all polluting gases and together the five countries account for more than 40 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
Australia and the United States are the only two OECD countries not to ratify the Kyoto protocol and so their gas reduction targets are not legally binding.
China and India are considered developing economies and thus are not subject to gas reduction targets They have now reportedly joined the "Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate".
The US led initiative is designed to rein in emissions without harming the economy - specifically focus on technology to limit emissions.
Australia Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry says clean technologies should be promoted but he wants to see detail.
"We need the most cutting edge technologies around, energy efficiency, use of gas and other technologies can help tackle these issues across these countries but it wouldn't be a substitute for encouraging all of these countries to commit to firm targets to cut greenhouse pollution," he said.
"Globally if we act now we do have a lot of the technologies available to drive us towards a 60 per cent cut by 2050 and the combination for example of solar, wind, energy efficiency ... use of gas as a transition fuel - all of that mix can help drive us very close to those deep cut targets so it's doable.
"What's missing around the world is the political will and agreement on technology-sharing is good - that's a positive step forward but the political will, will need to go further to commitments that are delivered on."
But Labor environment spokesman Anthony Albanese says a deal struck in secret over five months is no replacement for the international Kyoto protocol on climate change.
"It sounds like Government spin secret regional pact in order to up its importance," he said.
"The fact is there are negotiations going on throughout the world. Increasingly, it is recognised that there needs to be international action on climate change.
"The fact is that the world is moving more and more towards emissions trading, a market-based solution, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"That's what everyone has signed up to in the Kyoto protocol, that's what 10 north-east states in the US are advocating.
"The Howard Government did sign the Kyoto protocol in 1997 and at the time, John Howard himself said this was an agreement that was good for jobs, good for the economy and good for the environment.
"The fact is that he was right then, but in 2002 in following the lead of the Bush administration, in having an isolationist position on these issues, he was wrong."
Greens Senator Bob Brown says the agreement is aimed at protecting the coal industry.
Senator Brown says he believes the Prime Minister is being lead by the nose by the coal industry.
"This pact, when you look at it, four of the world's biggest coal producers and the world's biggest coal exporter China is third, ganging up together to try and test the rest of the world, which has gone the Kyoto path towards renewal clean energy, which is the real solution to global warming," he said.
The agreement has been reported in The Australian newspaper as a secret pact.ABC Radio's AM program sought confirmation from the Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell, whose spokeswoman referred the matter to the Prime Minister's office.
The Prime Minister's Office referred AM to the Foreign Minister's office. A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer refused to confirm or deny the report.