A BRITISH commitment to substantially boost its greenhouse emissions target for 2020 makes a mockery of the Federal Government's claims to global leadership on climate change, the Greens say.
Chancellor Alistair Darling said on Wednesday that Britain would cut emissions 34 per cent below 1990 by 2020, regardless of whether a new international climate treaty was signed this year. When recalibrated to the same baseline, the Australian Government's minimum proposed 2020 target equates to a 4 per cent cut.
Greens climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne said the British commitment did not go as far as she would have liked, but gave it "tremendous credibility on the global stage".
She said Climate Change Minister Penny Wong should retract her claim that the Government's proposal demonstrated leadership. "If Australia locks out the option of taking on serious emissions cuts, we can only stand in the way of a strong global agreement," she said.
Senator Wong said the comparison did not give a full picture of how much work would be required between 2012 and 2020.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia's emissions were allowed to rise between 1990 and 2012, whereas Britain was required to make a cut. It meant Australia's maximum target of 15 per cent below 2000 levels would involve the same amount of work over the coming decade as Britain's 34 per cent cut below 1990 levels, she said.
"It is unhelpful when these figures are selectively used to score political points," Senator Wong said.
Where 15 per cent is Australia's maximum cut under a new climate deal, Mr Darling pledged that Britain would go further if a treaty was signed.
Meanwhile, US climate change special envoy Todd Stern warned that a failure by the US Congress to offer clarity on its climate legislation would have a devastating impact on the key year-end summit in Copenhagen.
The comment comes as a series of hearings investigate a proposal to cut US emissions by up to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.