Monday, December 03, 2007

Australia's political climate change

Australia has today ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

Cat and I are back home after a great trip, to a new federal government and some important developments on climate change.

Climate change was a prominent issue in the election campaign. My impression is that, while policy differences between the parties on this issue had narrowed since the former Liberal government announced earlier this year that it would establish a carbon trading scheme, the Liberals' regular climate skeptic rhetoric over the past decade (which only really changed this year) resulted in the distinct feeling that they were not genuine about climate change action.

A new government was sworn in this morning and its first official act was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. This will enable Australia to participate properly in international negotiations on climate change for the first time in many years. It also leaves the United States exposed as the only wealthy country that has failed to ratify Kyoto. Whether this will have an impact on domestic politics in the US, particularly with a presidential election in the coming year, will soon be seen.

In Australia, the new government has set a long-term target of a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050, with a national emissions trading scheme to be implemented by 2010 to work towards that target.

The Bali climate change conference kicked off today, with new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Minister for Climate Change and Water Penny Wong, to lead the Australian delegation.  The first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol begins next year and runs until the end of 2012.  The signatories to the Kyoto Protocol have committed to achieving certain (fairly modest) emissions targets on average over this 5 year period. The big task for the international community over the next couple of years, starting in Bali, is to negotiate what happens after 2012.  It will be positive for Australia now to be more engaged in this process.

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