AUSTRALIA has declared it will not go beyond a 5 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 without guaranteed action by major emitters including the US, China and India.
The Government's formal submission to the Copenhagen Accord - the widely criticised agreement hatched between the US and major developing countries at the conference last month - pledges to cut emissions between 5 and 25 per cent below 2000 levels. It is the same range taken to the December meeting, bucking some expectations the Government would commit to a specific target.
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the Government would stick to its minimalist position unless there was substantial and verifiable action internationally.
If the impasse in global climate negotiations is not resolved in 2011, the Government will set a 5 per cent target under its proposed emissions trading scheme, giving business certainty for the planned start of full trading in July 2012.
Green groups criticised the Government for putting the onus on developing countries to prove they are serious about tackling climate change before Australia moves beyond 5 per cent.
Several analyses have estimated that commitments made in the lead-up to last year's Copenhagen summit would trigger Australia signing up to about a 15 per cent cut.
But Senator Wong said Australia's position ''was consistent with our commitments to do no more and no less than the rest of the world''.
The target would not be increased above 5 per cent until:
* Global climate policies become ''sufficiently clear'', including specific targets from major rich nations and verifiable climate policies from China and India.
* The credibility of other countries' commitments is established through either a ''robust'' agreement at the next major climate conference in Mexico in November or verifiable commitments to action by the US, India and China and other major emitters.
* The assumptions underpinning global emissions accounting and carbon markets are clear.
It is the first time Australia has placed demands on specific countries in setting out its conditions for an emissions cut of greater than 5 per cent. It suggests Australia will not increase its target unless climate legislation passes the US Senate.
Interpretation of the conditions will also depend on the definition of ''verifiable'' emissions cuts. China and India have fiercely resisted demands they allow external scrutiny of their emissions, agreeing only to pass on their own measurements to be followed by ''international consultations and analysis''.
Former government climate adviser Ross Garnaut last night said it was appropriate that the Government kept to its 5-25 per cent range until it had seen that other countries had confirmed their promises in formal submissions, due by January 31.
The announcement of the accord targets comes as the Government is set to introduce its revamped emissions trading legislation next Tuesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard refused to be drawn on whether the Government would bring back the legislation if it was defeated so it could be put to a joint sitting if there was a successful double dissolution.