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Minister attends UN conference on climate in Nairobi; discusses future of Kyoto protocol.

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Wednesday 15 November 2006

Minister attends UN conference on climate in Nairobi; discusses future of Kyoto protocol


PETER CAVE: The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is opening the ministeria l section of the 12th annual Climate talks in Nairobi today. 


For the past two weeks, delegates have been debating how to push the Kyoto Protocol beyond its 2012 expiry date. 


There's been little agreement on how to include China, India and other developing countries in efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 


Australia has proposed a new-style Kyoto, but there remains much confusion about the details. 


Jennifer Macey reports. 


JENNIFER MACEY: Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell says his plan for a "New Kyoto" has been met with great enthusiasm at the Climate Conference in Nairobi. 


IAN CAMPBELL: What I've found talking to European ministers is that they're very keen to see Australia as part of a "New Kyoto". The whole world is here trying to negotiate a new Kyoto. That's really the focus of efforts over the past 12-18 months. 


JENNIFER MACEY: The design and make-up this "New Kyoto" and whether it will replace the current treaty or exist alongside it is still unclear. United Nations delegates say they haven't yet seen a copy of Australia's proposal. 


UN Climate Secretariat spokesman John Hay says the UN wants Australia and the United States to join other countries in cutting emissions. 


JOHN HAY: It's absolutely clear that there will be a new Kyoto, there will be a continuation of the existing Kyoto Protocol. 


At the same time it's clear that we need something which involves all of the major industrialised nations, including Australia, including the United States, give it whatever name you choose, really, but there needs to be an agreement which does include all the major emitters of the world. 


JENNIFER MACEY: Environment groups are less diplomatic. 


Julie-Anne Richards is the coordinator of Climate Action Network Australia. 


JULIE-ANNE RICHARDS: What is the new Kyoto that the Australian Government is talking about? Because no one here has seen it. Even members of the Australian delegations haven't seen this mythical new Kyoto. So it's looking very much like a fairytale at the moment that exists only in minister Campbell's mind. 


JENNIFER MACEY: In Nairobi, the Australian delegation is co-chairing a two-day workshop on long-term action but is not part of official talks due to Australia's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol. 


The Federal Government says the treaty is flawed because it excludes large developing countries like India and China.  


India and China have both ratified Kyoto, but were not asked to meet reduction targets, because this might put them at a disadvantage against industrialised countries, which have already achieved economic growth.  


Now all 165 Kyoto signatories have begun talks to extend the treaty beyond its 2012 expiry date and consider whether developing countries should also adopt targets. 


UN spokesman John Hay doubts that any agreement will be reached at this year's meeting. 


JOHN HAY: We are seeing the old fault lines emerging between developed and developing countries. The developing countries want industrialised countries to assume quite steep emission cuts in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol very soon.  


The industrialised countries are saying they need more time to look at the science of climate change, they need more time to look at economics of climate change; there also differences about whether developing countries should not themselves take on legally binding commitments. 


JENNIFER MACEY: Meanwhile former US vice-President Al Gore is in Australia for the second time this year. He says the dramatic shift in US politics towards the Democrats could see the United States ratify the Kyoto Protocol, leaving Australia isolated. 


AL GORE: The United States will eventually, sooner rather than later, join the Kyoto process itself, but it's more likely that it will join in the successor treaty.  


So maybe some compromise pathway could emerge for both the United States and Australia if they genuinely wanted to join the Kyoto process.  


Sometimes politicians actually do change, and sometimes when they encounter an overwhelming reality, even though it's difficult to admit that they were wrong, they come up with different language, different labels, and embrace the same thing with a different name.  


PETER CAVE: Former US Vice-President Al Gore.