THE Australian government will look outside the crumbling United Nations negotiating group to find effective ways to tackle climate change, Penny Wong has indicated.
As diplomats gather in Germany for the first UN climate meeting since the Copenhagen conference in December, the Climate Change Minister said the government remained committed to the 192-nation talks and the controversial Copenhagen Accord.
But she said that progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions could be made more expeditiously in deals within smaller groups, such as the US-led Major Economies Forum on climate and energy, and between individual countries.
Her comments come amid uncertainty about the viability of the UN negotiations, which have failed to produce a legally binding agreement to replace or extend the existing Kyoto protocol once it lapses in 2012.
Senator Wong's position is at odds with emerging industrial giants China and India, which emphasise the importance of the UN process.
Senator Wong told The Age that Australia would continue to play an ''active and constructive role'' in the UN talks, but added: ''We will pursue all available channels, in the UN and beyond, to help forge global action.''
Senator Wong is expected to attend a ministerial-level Major Economies Forum to be held in Washington next weekend.
Australia and the US have stressed that the forum is not a replacement for UN talks, but they believe the best chance for short-term progress lies away from what have become acrimonious negotiations.
Climate analysts say that more significant steps towards change were made on the eve of the Copenhagen summit in the forum's agreement that global warming should be limited to two degrees, and its proposed $US10 billion-a-year ($A10.7 billion) package to help vulnerable nations cope with climate change.
These agreements were included in the three-page Copenhagen Accord, hatched on the final day of the UN talks in a private meeting between US President Barack Obama and leaders from China, India, Brazil and South Africa. The UN did not adopt the accord after opposition from a small group of mainly Latin American countries.
The accord has, however, been backed by more than 110 countries responsible for about 80 per cent of global emissions.
The talks in Bonn this weekend have the aim of laying a path towards another major year-end conference in Cancun, Mexico.
UN climate chief Yvo de Boer, who stands down in July, said he doubted a legally binding deal could be reached this year.
''I don't believe that the Copenhagen Accord will become the new legal framework,'' he said.
The Bonn meeting must rebuild confidence in the UN process, he said, and talks this year might lead to a treaty in December 2011 in South Africa.
A key area of dispute remains how to carve up total emissions cuts.
China and its supporters want an extension of the Kyoto protocol, which emphasises the responsibility of industrialised nations to make big cuts. These nations say growth in the emissions of developing nations mean that the goal of less than two degrees warming cannot be met without China taking on a binding target.
The Bonn talks begin as the World Bank is being criticised for approving a $US3.75 billion loan to help South Africa build one of the world's largest coal-fired power plants.
The US Treasury criticised the decision as ''incompatible with the World Bank strategy to help countries pursue economic growth and poverty reduction in ways that are environmentally sustainable''.