Embarrassing the government

US President Bill Clinton, on holiday in Australia, called for legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This embarrassed Australia's government, which has consistently rejected any such moves.

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During a four day working holiday in Australia, US President Bill Clinton called for legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Citing the success of the Montreal Protocol to limit the release of ozone-damaging CFCs and the "real risk" that enhanced global warming would be "nothing short of devastating," Clinton called on world governments to unite in the challenge to limit greenhouse gases.

His call was an embarrassment to Australia's government which has consistently rejected any moves for legally binding targets. As the world's largest exporter of coal, the Australian government maintains the country is a "special case" and should be treated differently under a "differentiation" model. The model is designed to set limits which take into account differences between economies in order to impose the same economic penalty on individuals no matter which country they live in.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, says Australia's policy on climate change is quite different from the United States "because it is in the interests of Australia for it to be different." The federal environment minister, Robert Hill, adds that Australia agreeing to legally binding targets would be "like signing a blank cheque" .

The government was strongly criticised for its response to Clinton by environmental groups and the state government of New South Wales which has initiated electricity reforms to reduce emissions. According to NSW environment minister, Michael Egan, the state government went looking for a greenhouse opportunity and found new industries investing $1 billion, a thousand new jobs and a substantial reduction in emissions. The result of NSW's foray into the business of reducing emissions prompted Egan to rebuff the federal government's position, saying it was "bad for the environment, bad for business, bad for jobs."

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