Movement on Kyoto

Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the US the only major industrialised nation yet to agree to the climate treaty.

The endorsement was approved by the first executive council meeting of Australia’s new Labor government this morning, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement on the Labor Party’s Web site. Australia will become a full member of the Kyoto Protocol by the end of March, he said.

Rudd promised to make climate change a priority for his government, and I’m delighted with the drive he’s shown so far.

Australia’s target under the Kyoto accord is to limit growth in greenhouse gas emissions to an 8 percent increase above 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period. The country is “tracking within 1 percentage point” of meeting that target, then-environment minister Malcolm Turnbull said in May. Australia is one of only three industrialized nations signed up to the accord that are allowed to increase emissions from 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

The Labor government will do “everything in its power” to help the nation meet its Kyoto obligations, Rudd said. This will include setting a target to cut emissions by 60 percent on 2000 levels by 2050, starting a national emissions trading system by 2020 and setting a target for 20 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources such as the sun and wind by 2020, he said.

The timing couldn’t be better, as delegates from around the world are meeting in Bali to hammer out the successor to Kyoto, which expires in 2012. If it puts pressure on the US to sign up — though this might only happen under the next administration — so much the better. And the more major nations on board, the more likely developing countries such as China will join too.

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