Australian PM ratifies Kyoto Protocol

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Monday he had ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in his first official act after being sworn in as leader.

”Today I have signed the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol,” Rudd said in a statement.

”This is the first official act of the new Australian government, demonstrating my government’s commitment to tackling climate change.”

Rudd, who ousted conservative leader John Howard in elections nine days ago on a platform that included reversing the previous government’s policy and ratifying Kyoto, was sworn in just hours earlier.

The Labour Party leader said ratification of the United Nation’s landmark treaty on combating global warming was approved by the first meeting of the government’s executive council and later by the governor general.

”Under United Nations guidelines, ratification of the Kyoto Protocol enters into force 90 days after the instrument of ratification is received by the United Nations,” Rudd said.

”Australia will become a full member of the Kyoto Protocol before the end of March 2008.”

The move leaves the United States as the only major developed nation that has refused to ratify the global pact.

Rudd said the Kyoto Protocol was considered to be ”the most far-reaching agreement on environment and sustainable development ever adopted”.

”Australia’s official declaration today that we will become a member of the Kyoto Protocol is a significant step forward in our country’s efforts to fight climate change domestically — and with the international community,” he said.

Rudd will undertake his first foreign visit as prime minister next week when he travels to the Indonesian resort island of Bali for the opening of the high level segment of a United Nations conference on climate change.

The conference, which began on Monday, aims to produce a ”roadmap” for negotiating a new pact on tackling global warming to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

Rudd said his government would do ”everything in its power” to help Australia meet its Kyoto obligations — which are set at capping greenhouse gas emissions at 108% of 1990 levels by 2012.

Official projections point to Australia just breaching this limit, estimating greenhouse gas output at 109% of 1990 levels by 2012.

The new prime minister also outlined a range of measures designed to help reduce the carbon footprint of the world’s driest inhabited continent.

Rudd said his government would aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60%on 2000 levels by 2050, establish a national emissions trading scheme by 2010 and set a 20% target for renewable energy by 2020.

The former government, which signed the Kyoto Protocol but refused to ratify it, had argued that joining the process would hurt the economy and would be ineffective without setting targets for developing nations such as China. – AFP



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