Australia, New Zealand Say No Kyoto Extension Without Larger Climate Deal

Australia and New Zealand, which sponsor the most developed carbon markets outside Europe, say they won’t agree to remain part of the Kyoto treaty unless other countries bolster efforts to curb emissions.

Australia will only sign up for further cuts under Kyoto through 2020 if all big emitting countries agree to legally binding actions, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said in an interview in Durban, South Africa. New Zealand says it won’t join unless it has stronger assurance that voluntary pledges will be met by large polluters such as China.

“We need to be able to go back to our own people, whether we live in France or New Zealand, and say we aren’t the only people doing something,” said Tim Groser, New Zealand’s chief envoy at United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa. “You will not carry public opinion if the debate is ‘you are the only idiots doing anything.’”

The comments show the strength of resistance among industrial nations to extending the Kyoto treaty, which China and India say is essential for the talks in Durban to succeed. The U.S. never ratified the pact, and Japan, Russia and Canada already ruled out more commitments under the treaty.

The U.S. and European Union say that Kyoto may only cover 15 percent of world emissions if it’s extended because China and India have become two of the top three polluters since the pact was negotiated in 1997. Developing nations have no restrictions under Kyoto.

‘Small Proportion’

“It’s a relatively small proportion of global greenhouse gases,” Combet said. Any agreement reached for further emissions reductions must be “environmentally effective.”

The EU says it will extend Kyoto only if all major emitters agree to forge a new legally binding treaty that includes all countries by 2015. China said it would only consider adopting mandatory cuts if certain conditions were met. Brazil said it’s reluctant to make a legally binding promise on the issue in Durban.

“There’s not going to be a wider agreement reached in Durban,” Combet said. Still, progress needs to be made in strengthening a political climate agreement countries agreed to last year at UN talks in Cancun, Mexico, he said.

A new negotiating text was published today that covers all nations. It runs to 138 pages and includes numerous alternative options for emissions-cutting measures. The South African presidency of the conference is also consulting on a shorter text detailing four options for an outcome of the talks.

‘Kyoto Plus’

New Zealand is calling for a “Kyoto plus” deal in which the U.S., China, India and other big greenhouse-gas emitters give stronger assurances that they will live up to their voluntary pledges to curb emissions by 2020, Groser, said in an interview in Durban.

Countries that are considering whether to stay in Kyoto need such guarantees to politically justify a decision to remain in the pact, Groser said.

Groser said the EU’s call for a new legally binding deal by 2015 is understandable, though may not be realistic.

“At the end of the day you may be asking too much of China, India, Brazil and the U.S. to commit unequivocally to that,” he said.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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