Climate Change Minister Proposes Schedule for Nations Unable to Meet Emission

CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 21 (UPI) — Australia announced a compromise plan in which developing nations would not have to commit to binding, economy-wide emission reduction targets but instead would submit their own “schedule.”

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong highlighted the proposal Monday during a speech at New York University’s School of Law. Wong and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd are both in New York in advance of Tuesday’s U.N. summit on climate change aimed at building consensus on a possible agreement prior to December’s talks in Copenhagen to draw up a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

“This is a moment which we have to grasp. We have to cut this deal because the world is looking to Copenhagen to forge an effective agreement on climate change,” Wong said, Australian Broadcasting System reported today.

“The one-size-fits-all model is not going to get the agreement we need,” Wong said, and does not deliver broad participation from developing economies that the climate needs.

“We need to approach this in a less intimidating way for new players,” she said.

For developing countries that are taking on international mitigation obligations for the first time, Wong said, “flexibilities in schedules are designed to give them greater comfort.” That could translate into mapping out renewable energy targets, a technology standard, or a target to reduce deforestation.

In an apparent reference to China and India, which have resisted setting caps on their emissions, developing countries with “greater capacity and responsibility” would have to promise actions that add up to “significant reductions below baselines.”

Wong said Australia’s idea for a schedule of emissions targets is “gaining traction” in the lead-up to Copenhagen and its proposal “reflects Australia’s commitment to a new period of active and creative middle-power diplomacy,” the Australian reported.

“On face value,” Erwin Jackson, policy and research director at The Climate Institute, told Australian news Web site Crikey, “the schedules approach seems like a possible way forward.”

He cautioned, however, that in the past, a number of countries grabbed any opportunity to weaken their own commitments. The credibility of Australia’s approach depends on its ability to strengthen global action, so that it does not lead to a system in which countries are merely registering existing national commitments, Jackson said.

In noting that the Copenhagen talks are less than 80 days away, Rudd stressed the urgency of a fruitful outcome to the U.N. New York summit. “There’s a danger, speaking absolutely frankly, that options for (a) final decision in Copenhagen are left too late,” Rudd said.

Australia now leads the world in per capita emissions because of its reliance on coal for about 80 percent of its electricity needs.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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