Australia's opposition backs Kyoto 2

BEIJING Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:08am EDT

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BEIJING Aug 16 (Reuters Point Carbon) - Australia's opposition Liberal party climate spokesman Greg Hunt on Thursday gave his "in principle" backing to signing up for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, making it easier for the under-fire government to sign the U.N. climate treaty.

Hunt told The Age newspaper that the opposition coalition's intention is to join a new Kyoto period, although a final decision would depend on the exact terms.

"What the world really needs is to bring China and India and Indonesia on board, to bring Russia and Brazil on board. I think it will be easier to strike a 2016 agreement to commence in 2020, if there is a Kyoto 2," Hunt said, according to The Age.

If Australia signs up to a new target under Kyoto, it will become the first non-European developed nation to do so.

The first commitment period of the 1997 U.N. treaty, which puts legally binding emission targets on some 40 developed countries, expires this year.

But amid limited progress in international climate negotiations there has been little enthusiasm among rich countries to prolong the treaty.

Canada has already pulled out of Kyoto altogether, while Japan and Russia have said they will not sign up for a new period due to the low share of global emissions covered.

The U.S. never ratified Kyoto, while major emitters in the developing world, such as China and India, have no targets under Kyoto.

The main focus of current U.N.-led climate negotiations is the Durban platform agreed on last December, which states that parties shall agree by 2015 on a new international pact to bind all emitters by 2020.

Until such a deal is in place the Kyoto Protocol would be the only existing international treaty to address climate change, and Hunt's comments Thursday are likely to be welcomed by negotiators when they meet in Bangkok later this month.

SIGNING DELAY

So far the Australian government has ducked making any commitments towards a new Kyoto period.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's decision last year to introduce a carbon tax has been highly controversial, and the opposition's popular anti-carbon tax agenda has made the coalition favorites to win next year's election by a landslide.

Australia's decision on a new Kyoto period is expected to be made at the U.N. talks in Doha in December, and Erwin Jackson at research group The Climate Institute said Hunt's comments might make it easier for Gillard to sign up.

"This is an important development as the biggest political obstacle to the government taking on a second commitment period is how it plays out in domestic politics," Jackson told Reuters Point Carbon.

One major concern for Australia would be whether it would have access to the U.N.-regulated carbon market if it doesn't sign up to Kyoto 2, Jackson said.

Australia will launch an emissions trading scheme on July 1, 2015, and plans to let emitters used U.N.-issued offsets to meet up to 50 percent of their domestic targets.

(Reporting by Stian Reklev)

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