Australia May Join Europe With Extended Kyoto Climate Pledge

Australia is giving “serious consideration” to joining Europe in a renewed and binding pledge to reduce emissions, even though a new treaty including the U.S. and China is a higher priority.

Australia has yet to decide whether to join a so-called second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol that may span the rest of this decade, according to Mark Dreyfus, Australia’s Parliamentary secretary for climate change and energy efficiency.

“We are giving serious consideration to joining a second commitment to Kyoto,” Dreyfus said yesterday at the Carbon Expo event in Melbourne. Even so, “the main game” at the Doha talks is making good on promises made at last year’s climate summit in Durban, South Africa. That meeting produced an agreement that requires both developed nations such as the U.S. and emerging nations including China to pledge emission reductions that are legally enforceable starting in 2020 rather than voluntary targets, he said.

Australia announced Aug. 28 it will link its emissions market starting in 2015 with the world’s largest cap-and-trade system in Europe. The country is under pressure because European leaders have signaled their unwillingness to let nations without new commitments under the Kyoto treaty use the Clean Development Mechanism after 2012, according to Ilona Millar, a senior associate for the law firm of Baker & McKenzie. A decision on future access to the CDM will be made by the UN.

‘Very Significant’

The CDM is the global carbon market created under the Kyoto agreement. It enables richer countries to “offset” their emissions via investments in climate projects in the developing world that cut pollution at a lower cost than they could at home.

Dreyfus, who is scheduled to join Australian Climate Minister Greg Combet at this year’s global meeting in Doha, acknowledged that Australia’s ties with Europe are an “issue” when it comes to Kyoto, and said the links won’t predetermine Australia decisions.

The re-election of President Barack Obama in the U.S. was a “very significant” development that bodes well for the Doha meeting, Dreyfus said.

Obama’s mention of climate change in his victory speech was an encouraging sign, said James Cameron, chairman of Climate Change Capital in London, who helped negotiate the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

“The U.S. is finally moving out of its position of intransigence,” Cameron said today in Melbourne. “It may actually lend a hand to the international process,” he said, advising all participants in this year’s Doha talks to have “modest expectations.”

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