Australia Bids to Craft Alternative to Kyoto Protocol

SYDNEY, Australia, April 8, 2005 (ENS) - Business and government leaders from Australia and New Zealand are attending an invitation only event to map the path towards controlling global warming beyond 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires. The two countries, neither of which is legally bound to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the protocol, are meeting to devise other ways to limit climate change.

Australian Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell, and Convenor of New Zealand's Ministerial Group on Climate Change, Pete Hodgson, are hosting the climate change forum between the countries.

Australia wants to take the lead in brokering an agreement which would include both the United States and China, neither of which is bound by the protocol's targeted emissions reductions. "We need an effective global response to climate change and Australia has committed to playing a leadership role in this process," Senator Campbell said.


Australian Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell said his country wants to lead the negotiations that will bring all parties to the climate table. (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
Almost 100 industry and government leaders are attending the day-long forum. The event is divided into two segments – a Leaders Roundtable in the morning with Ministers, CEOs, and other senior officials and executives - and a larger gathering in the afternoon with a broader group of policymakers, stakeholders, and experts.

"Industry and government leaders from both countries will meet to find common ground on the most effective ways of combating climate change, to exchange ideas on the latest low emissions technology and agree on what we can do in a regional sense that will feed into the global strategy," Campbell said.

The administrations of both Australia and the United States have declined to ratify the protocol, saying it would harm their economies and does not cover developing countries that emit greenhouse gases, such as China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil.

Now that the Kyoto Protocol entered into force on February 16, Hodgson said governments and industry are starting to consider what will come next.

"The forum provides an excellent opportunity for Australian and New Zealand industry and other stakeholders to offer local perspectives on possible future global responses to climate change. For New Zealand this means exploring options for action in addition to the Kyoto Protocol," said Hodgson, who serves as minister of commerce and minister of transport in addition to his role as head of the Ministerial Group on Climate Change.


New Zealand Minister of Commerce and Transport Pete Hodgson. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
"Options for further action range from voluntary cooperation on technology development to mandatory frameworks embracing all countries," said Hodgson. "Discussion at the forum will consider the advantages and disadvantages of all these approaches."

The Australia-New Zealand Climate Forum is facilitated by the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, a U.S. think-tank, which is conducting a series of high-level international dialogues on future global action on climate change.

“It is clear to all involved that the Kyoto Protocol is at best a start in the international climate effort. We think it’s important to look beyond Kyoto," said Pew Center President Eileen Claussen, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs.

The average temperature of the Earth's surface has risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius since the late 1800s. Scientists predict it will increase by another 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C by the year 2100 - a rapid and profound change. Even if the minimum predicted increase takes place, it will be larger than any century long trend in the last 10,000 years.


Pew Center President Eileen Claussen (Photo credit unknown)
"We need new approaches that will engage all the large greenhouse gas emitters in a serious long-term effort that protects both the global climate and the global economy. That will be the focus of our discussions in Sydney, and we are grateful to the governments of Australia and New Zealand, and in particular to Minister Campbell and Minister Hodgson, for hosting this timely discussion," Claussen said.

Each session will feature presentation of analysis and post-2012 options. The afternoon session will include responses from experts and stakeholders in the region, including Catherine Beard of the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, Gregg Bourne of the World Wildlife Fund, Mitchell Hooke of the Minerals Council of Australia, Heather Ridout of the Australian Industry Group, and Ralph Sims of Massey University.

The Greenhouse Policy Coalition, which represents New Zealand’s largest employers and energy users on matters relating to greenhouse gas issues, takes the position that the Kyoto Protocol is a first modest step in the right direction towards reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases.

“While the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol is an important first step there are still many challenges ahead, said Beard. "For the Kyoto Protocol to be effective we still need countries such as the USA and Australia to sign up to commitments to reduce emissions and also the growing economies that are major emitters and competitors, such as China and India."

While not legally bound to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol, both New Zealand and Australia are taking steps to utilize the momentum of the protocol to cut emissions, develop new technologies, and make some money.

On April 1 in New Zealand, a Christchurch City Council plan to collect methane gas from the Burwood landfill site to fire the boilers at the QE2 swimming pool was awarded 200,000 emissions units under the government's Projects to Reduce Emissions program.

Sale of the emissions units could net the Christchurch Council around $3 million if sold at the prevailing international price of around $15.

"The benefits this project is set to deliver are a direct consequence of New Zealand's decision to be part of global efforts to tackle climate change through the Kyoto Protocol," says Hodgson.

In Australia on Tuesday, Campbell launched a world first - a heavy duty engine that runs on liquefied natural gas. The dual fuel, Caterpillar C15 engine would mean an eight percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the minister said.

American company Clean Air Power developed the engine, with the help of $100,000 from the Australian government, specifically for Australian road conditions.

"This engine was developed to generate power, not pollution," Campbell said.

The Australian government believes that while solar, wind and hydro are part of the energy picture, for the foreseeable future fossil fuels will continue to be the principal source of Australia's energy needs.

The main reasons for the mounting temperature are a century and a half of industrialization, the burning of ever-greater quantities of oil, gasoline, and coal, and the cutting of forests, which absorb the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.