Paola Totaro in L'Aquila, Italy
The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, shared centre stage with US President Barack Obama yesterday for the global launch of Australia's pioneering Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.
Flanked by the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, Mr Obama said the Australian initiative would help speed up the development of technology critical for reducing carbon emissions and welcomed a step forward in climate change negotiations.
Mr Obama and Mr Rudd said the decision by the 17 member Major Economies Forum (MEF), including China and India, to accept a two-degree celsius cap on global temperature rises was significant, despite their failure to thrash out what the baseline temperature should be - or even its starting point, saying only that it should be "1990 or later."
Mr Obama conceded the road would be long and hard before the Copenhagen climate talks but that there had been a ``surprising concurrence'' among the MEF nations about the need to contribute to solutions to climate change.
"While we don't expect to solve this problem in one meeting or one summit, I believe we made some important strides forward as we move towards Copenhagen. This is very, very positive and we are hoping that we can all come to some precise limits,'' Mr Obama said.
"Ice sheets are melting, sea levels are rising, our oceans are becoming more acidic and we have already seen its effects on weather patterns, our food and water sources, our health and our habitats.
``Every nation on this planet is at risk and just as no one nation is responsible for climate change, no one nation can address it alone.
Mr Rudd, who shared the stage with Mr Obama in an auditorium filled with nearly 1000 of the world's press, said the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (CCS) would now be an international initiative led by Australia - which will act as a clearing house for research of new technologies, legislation to pave their path and as a vehicle to streamline funding.
"The practical challenge we face...is what do we do about the problem, the challenge, of coal. There are practically no large carbon capture and storage projects under construction now,'' Mr Rudd said.
``Australia in the last 12 months has decided to work with other major economies, and all the major energy companies, on the establishment of a Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. That is what we are here launching today."
He said carbon capture and storage, which captures CO2 and injects it in safe stores deep underground, is an important weapon in the battle against global warming.
Mr Obama said the creation of new global partnership to drive the development of clean technologies around the world would also include a plan to double the funds provided for research and development.
``Despite the growth of renewable energy, fossile fuels, especially coal will continue to be a major source of energy for some time to come,'' he said.
``Without global action like CCS, fossil fuel emissions are forecast to increase by 130 per cent by 2050.''