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Forget climate targets, timetables, Australia says
Updated: 2005-12-09 09:40

Short-term targets and tight timetables are no solution to fighting climate change, Australia's environment minister said on Thursday on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference.

The talks have struggled to make headway on advancing the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol after 2012. The pact enshrines binding curbs on the emission of greenhouse gases, something Australia and the United States say threatens economic growth.

Both countries have refused to ratify Kyoto, saying clean technology is crucial in fighting climate change.

"It is fair to say that a Kyoto-style agreement is very unlikely to be achieved from the negotiations," Ian Campbell told Reuters, referring to a new round of talks likely to be announced on Friday by Kyoto members gathered in Montreal.

"The concept of binding targets and timetables is just about finished," he said.

Australia says Kyoto is a failure because its first phase in 2008-2012 only imposes emissions curbs on industrial nations and not the developing world, including big polluters India, Brazil and China.

Kyoto went into force in February and it obliges about 40 developed countries to cut their emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during 2008-2012. Many of those countries are well above their targets.

The talks in Montreal are meant to begin deciding the shape of the next phase but Campbell said there was no point if the process focused on targets and excluded developing nations.

"This inane preoccupation with short-term targets is incredibly bad public policy. This (climate change) is a problem that took 150 years to create. We've increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by 30 percent over the last 150 years and we've got 45-50 years to fix it.

"And people are seriously saying we'll set a target for 8 years' time. You need a policy of investment over a 30-year time frame," he said, referring to what he said was trillions of dollars needed to invest in cleaner energy technologies.


Australia has faced severe criticism at home and abroad for not ratifying Kyoto and has been accused of blindly following the United States, a major ally.

But at the Montreal talks, Australia has at least agreed to a Canadian call for two years of global talks on future cooperation on climate change, something the United States has refused to support.

Australia will also host the inaugural meeting next month of the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate linking Australia, the United States, Japan, China, India and South Korea.

The group's aim is to promote clean technology but some groups, including Greenpeace, have dismissed it as a voluntary agreement crafted by the world's biggest coal exporters and importers.

Green groups say there is no reason for Australia to avoid ratifying Kyoto because the country is one of the few that is actually on track to meet the target it agreed to in 1997, before it pulled out a few years later.

Government figures show the country will reach its emissions target of 108 percent of their 1990 levels by 2010, in large part because of recent restrictions on land clearing. But after years of strong economic growth, figures also show emissions from power stations and transport are soaring.

"What we're really saying is let's go back to improving the convention, making it work better and create a framework for the future that is likely to create outcomes that will save the world from climate change," he said, referring to Kyoto's parent pact, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"That's the main game and there is a recognition that under Kyoto you are not going to get that."

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