Australia and U.S. Partner on Climate Outside Protocol

WASHINGTON, DC, March 1, 2002 (ENS) - The voluntary greenhouse gas emissions limitation policy proffered by President George W. Bush in February for dealing with global warming has drawn another nation into its orbit.

The government of Australia has signed an agreement with the United States to establish a formal climate action partnership outside the boundaries of the Kyoto Protocol, the agreement by which the rest of the industrialized world is attempting to limit greenhouse gases linked to global warming.


Australian Environment Minister Dr. David Kemp (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
At the Australian Embassy in Washington on Wednesday, Australian Environment Minister Dr. David Kemp said Australia will work with the United States on "practical climate change measures." At the same time, Kemp said, Australia will be "working to meet" its Kyoto Protocol commitment of keeping greenhouse gas emissions to an eight percent rise above 1990 levels by 2012.

Australia is already the country of which the least amount of change is required under the Kyoto Protocol. European Union countries must cut their greenhouse gas emissions by eight percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012.

Dr. Kemp said the United States welcomed the Australian proposal for a climate action partnership. He said Australia's outreach was prompted by President Bush's climate policy statement which relies upon a new standard of climate impact - greenhouse gas intensity and relies on voluntary actions by industry.

The new bilateral partnership will focus on emissions measurement and accounting, climate change science, stationary energy technology, engagement with business to create economically efficient climate change solutions, agriculture and land management, and collaboration with developing countries to build capacity to deal with climate change said Dr. Kemp.

Environmental groups blasted the new partnership because they say it undermines the Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which commits 38 industrialized countries to curb their emissions of six greenhouse gases. The protocol was signed by 150 nations including the United States under former President Bill Clinton, but it was rejected by President Bush as bad for the U.S. economy, which emits one quarter of the entire global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.


U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky (Photo courtesy IISD/ENB-Leila Mead)
The Australia/U.S. climate action partnership was signed Wednesday following meetings on climate change held in Washington this week by Dr. Kemp with senior members of the Bush administration, including: EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality James Connaughton; Deputy Secretary of Energy Francis Blake, and Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky.

The initial partnership meeting will be coordinated by Kemp and Dobriansky.

Kemp said the Bush climate policy approach appeals to Australia because it "clearly recognizes the importance of taking action in a way that does not undermine the economies of countries like the United States and Australia. On the contrary, it's action which is designed to introduce new technology and maintain and be consistent with continued economic growth."

But critics point out that Australian greenhouse gas emissions are up, and the Howard government has done nothing to stop approval of a new coal-fired power station in Queensland.

Greenpeace Australia said Thursday, “This pact is yet more evidence of the Australian government failing to take climate change seriously. Australia’s emissions are continuing to rise and the government is failing to deal with them.”


Emissions of six greenhouse gases trap the heat of the Sun's rays close to Earth contributing to climate warming and sea level rise. (Photo courtesy NASA)
Greenpeace climate campaigner Dr. Frances MacGuire said, "The government should ratify the Kyoto Protocol and get on with the real issue in hand, cutting emissions, not hiding behind plans that will achieve little.”

The Australian government has been warned that its stance is causing mounting anger from Pacific Island nations ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Australia this week, said MacGuire.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that he expects climate change to be raised in the CHOGM despite reports that Australia wants the issue kept off the main agenda.

Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu are believed to want climate change on the main agenda. Low lying Kiribati and Tuvalu are among the countries most threatened by sea level rise and changing climate patterns.

Australian environmentalists say Australian Prime Minister John Howard wants climate change off the agenda because of Australia's own poor record.

In London, the Australian High Commission was picketed by a small group of environmental protesters urging Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

The United States and Japan released a joint statement Thursday regarding the results of the second meeting of the U.S./Japan High-Level Consultations on Climate Change Science and Technology Working Group, held in Tokyo February 25 and 26.

The U.S. delegation was led by Dr. Harlan Watson, senior climate negotiator and the Japanese delegation was led by Noriyasu Yamada, councilor for environmental strategy for the Ministry of Environment.

The U.S. and Japanese delegations identified more than 30 possible joint climate change science and technology research activities aimed at understanding, monitoring and predicting climatic variations and their impacts. Some of the possible joint research projects would focus on the development of advanced low carbon technologies to limit net emissions of greenhouse gases.