Government stands firm on refusal to ratify Kyoto Protocol

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The Australian government is standing firm on its refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, despite growing opposition to the decision inside the country, the recent ratification by New Zealand and Canada, and Russia's decision to sign next year. Along with the USA, it remains the only developed country outside the global agreement to co-operate on controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Environment minister David Kemp repeats that ratification "is not in Australia's national interests at this time." The government, he adds, will continue to develop and invest funding in domestic programs to meet the target agreed to at Kyoto of limiting Australia's greenhouse gas emissions to 108% of 1990 levels over the period 2008-2012. "But we are now acting on the need for Australia to focus upon the longer term," he says. In October Kemp rejected claims by Environment Business Australia, in its report "The business case for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol," that ratification would be good for business in Australia, bringing with it environmental, trade, health and economic benefits that outweigh any perceived negatives. The report warned that Australian companies would lose substantial business opportunities, as trade sanctions are likely to be imposed by countries that have signed up. Australian companies would also be excluded from participating in Clean Development Mechanism projects and thus "major project opportunities and supply contracts in developing countries may be jeopardised." Kemp disagrees, arguing the protocol is "fundamentally flawed." Ratifying would "send a signal to investors that Australia was prepared to expose itself to binding legal commitments that could in the future impose costs not faced by neighbouring regional economies," he continues. "For Australia this is not a trivial matter. This government is committed to addressing climate change and addressing it in a way that ensures that Australian business remains internationally competitive."

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