CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched a spirited attack on climate sceptics on Friday, saying a vocal minority is powerful enough to threaten a global deal at next month’s Copenhagen climate summit.
Rudd said climate sceptics, deniers and opponents of climate action are active in every country, had limited the ambition of national climate change commitments and slowed progress of carbon trade laws in the United States and Australia.
“They are a minority. They are powerful, and invariably they are driven by vested interests,” Rudd said in a foreign policy speech on Friday. “They are powerful enough to threaten a deal on global climate change both in Copenhagen and beyond.”
Rudd, who has accepted a role to lobby for an international deal to curb greenhouse emissions ahead of the Dec 7-18 Copenhagen meeting, said those who advocate a delay on climate policy are aiming to slow commitments from individual nations.
“Their aim is to erode just enough political will that action becomes impossible,” he said. “By hampering decisive action at a national level, they aim to make it impossible at an international level.”
Australia wants to introduce carbon trading from mid-2011, as part its plan to curb emissions, but laws for the scheme remain stalled in parliament’s Senate, with a vote due in late November.
The government, which needs seven more votes to pass the scheme, is in talks with the opposition over amendments it hopes will enable the laws to pass before the Copenhagen summit. The Opposition wants a vote delayed until after Copenhagen.
Rudd said negotiations were continuing in good faith, but criticised the opposition for delaying a final position seven times since late 2007.
“It is an endless cycle of delay, and I am sure that with December almost upon us, the eighth excuse cannot be far away, which will be to wait until the next year or the year after until all the rest of the world has acted,” Rudd said.
The Australian carbon trade scheme will cover 75 percent of Australian emissions from 1,000 of the biggest companies.
Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and accounts for 1.5 percent of global emissions, but is one of the biggest per-capita emitters due to a reliance on coal for 80 percent of electricity generation.