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Australia says on track to meet Kyoto target

Date: 16-Aug-02
Country: AUSTRALIA

Australia said its greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 11 percent by the end of the decade but it believed it could cut that back to its Kyoto target of an eight percent rise by 2012.

"Australia's economy is becoming less greenhouse intensive...," said Environment Minister David Kemp in releasing the new greenhouse data.

But Australia reiterated it would not ratify the global climate agreement.

The Australian Greens party rejected the government's statement, saying the data was "rubbery figures" based on land-clearing data, adding emissions could be up 33 percent by 2012.

"The fact is that greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and petrol in Australia have gone through the roof," Greens Senator Bob Brown told reporters.

"The government's technical snow cover is to imply land clearing and agricultural practices are sopping up these emissions," he said.

Australia's 20 million inhabitants represent only 0.3 percent of the world population, but according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the vast island continent is the world's second largest per capita producer of carbon dioxide. The United States is the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Australia has sided with the United States and refused to endorse the 1997 Kyoto pact which sets targets for industrialised nations to cut their emissions of heat-trapping gases blamed for rising global temperatures.

Fending off international criticism of its rejection of Kyoto, Australia said yesterday its measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions were working and that it was in striking distance of its target of an eight percent rise between 1990 and 2012.

"The government's A$1 billion ($540 million) investment in greenhouse programmes is having a major impact...saving annually 60 million tonnes of greenhouse gases by the end of the decade," Kemp said.

Kemp, who will lead Australia's delegation to the U.N. earth summit in Johannesburg this month, said without action by the government, Australia's greenhouse emissions would have grown 22 percent by 2010 from 1990 levels, Kyoto's benchmark year.

But he repeated the government's opposition to joining the 50 or so countries that have endorsed the Kyoto pact, shrugging off pressure from environmental groups and rival politicians.

"It is clear that the Kyoto Protocol does not at the time provide an effective framework," he said.

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