Kyoto ratification was a good start… but just a start

4 December 2007

3 December 2007: A polar bear sends a vital message during the opening of the UN Climate Change conference in Bali, Indonesia.Whatever else happens here in Bali, an undoubted highlight will be the announcement by Australia that they will ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The incoming Rudd government richly deserved the applause that greeted that announcement. Only days later, however, there are worrying signs here in Bali that while Kyoto will be ratified, the new government may disappoint those who thought it would now become a leader in dealing with climate change in the coming years. Specifically, Australia’s silence on whether it supports the band of reduction targets for industrialised countries of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 is disturbing. This target band comes from a UN climate conference in August and is for industrialised countries, and has been supported by almost all other countries here in Bali with the exception of the usual suspects: Japan, Canada and the US. Indeed, not only are they not supporting a second commitment period for Kyoto with strong targets, they are seeking to prevent Kyoto continuing beyond 2012 at all. But what about Australia? Now that it has ratified, and Rudd has told us what a priority climate change is, why is there not a clear, explicit statement of support for this target band for the next commitment period, which is so essential if we are to avoid dangerous climate change? Ratifying Kyoto was a great step, and welcome. But it is only a start. Now, it is essential that the Bali mandate include the 25-40% target band as the basis for negotiations on new Annex 1 commitments post-2012. And it is thus essential that the Australian Government support it explicitly.