Friday, December 12, 2008

Put plans on table, says Wong

  • The Age, Adam Morton Poznan, Poland
  • December 13, 2008

CLIMATE Change Minister Penny Wong has called on the world's governments to put their greenhouse reduction plans on the table and show they are willing to play their part in fighting global warming.

The appeal to nearly 150 government heads and ministers in Poland for UN climate talks came as the Australian Government faces pressure over its own 2020 greenhouse target, which will be announced on Monday, along with the final design of its emissions trading scheme.

Australia, Japan, Canada and Russia have been criticised by developing world leaders and environmentalists for coming to the UN talks without a commitment to cut emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020.

In an address to the conference, Senator Wong said a post-Kyoto treaty must involve all rich nations adopting greenhouse targets and as many developing countries as possible taking steps to limit climate change.

"We encourage other parties to also announce their emission reduction ambitions and demonstrate their willingness to be part of the global outcome," she said.

The Government is expected to announce a scheme to reduce emissions by between 5 and 25 per cent, depending on whether a new climate agreement is reached.

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas yesterday joined the call for Australia to cut emissions by 25 to 40 per cent — the overall target range scientists say is necessary to avert dangerous climate change.

In one of three speeches to the conference, Senator Wong warned it would be difficult for Australia to meet its long-term target of a 60 per cent cut by 2050 due to its growing population and energy-intensive economy, but said strong action would ultimately secure and create jobs.

She also called on countries to stop blocking a plan to allow rich nations to meet part of their emissions target by paying for clean coal projects in poor countries using the clean development mechanism.

Senator Wong met former US vice-president Al Gore, who urged negotiators to "free themselves of the old, outdated way of looking at the planet" and help avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

The first day of ministerial talks continued the stand-off between the developed and developing nations, with some major rich nations resisting deep cuts unless emerging giants China and India also made commitments.

Developing nations say the rich must take the lead in securing an unprecedented climate treaty at a meeting in Copenhagen next year.

The conference has also been stilted because of the financial meltdown and the effective absence of the US — in presidential transition — as a serious negotiator.

Former US presidential candidate John Kerry, who is leading a senate delegation in Poland, said the US would have a climate policy in place within a year that would let it join a worldwide climate treaty for the first time.

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