Australia carbon plan vital before Copenhagen: U.N. panel

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Australia needs to declare its commitment to cut carbon emissions before the Copenhagen summit in December or risk weakening the outcome of global climate talks, the head of the U.N. climate panel said Monday.

Australia announced a one-year delay an major changes to its carbon trading plans Monday, citing the global economic recession for the need to delay the start date until July 2011 but the country may raise its target for cutting emissions.

“If you have even one or two developed countries not showing adequate commitment in this business, that would rub off on the others,” R.K. Pachauri chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“I think what’s going to be critically important is that what it is going to do is announced before Copenhagen,” he added.

Pachauri, who is also the head of The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, said Australia needed to send a robust message to the world.

“Otherwise you’re not going to get a strong agreement in Copenhagen. If major developed countries are not going to make commitments before Copenhagen, then you’re not going to get a strong decision,” he said.

Australia’s decision to put back its carbon-emissions trading scheme followed demands from businesses to soften the carbon regime, and Pachauri said such pressures may also emerge in other countries.

Pachauri said other developed countries had not diluted their position on climate change.

“Fortunately Europe is firm. There have been some voices, to reduce their commitment to the 2020 deal they had agreed last year. So far they are holding firm.”

He said the United States under President Barack Obama was also committed to act against climate change and the economic downturn had not weakened U.S. resolve.

But like Australia, other developed countries may also be vulnerable to business pressures and lobbies working against stiff targets.

“It is certainly possible, who knows? If there is lots of resistance from industries and lobbies that are active, anything is possible,” Pachauri said.

Reporting by Himangshu Watts; Editing by Peter Blackburn