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Secret emissions challenge

The Australian government has been warned it faces a "formidable challenge" to meet cuts in greenhouse emissions required under the yet-to-be ratified Kyoto Protocol. The warning came in a confidential government report by a special science and engineering council that reports to the prime minister's office. The report, leaked to The Australian newspaper, says Australia's economy and ecology will be severely impacted by a failure to reduce emissions. The authors warn that expected temperature rises in Australia over the next 30 months will change regional rainfall patterns, produce more severe and frequent storms and change the spread of pests and diseases. They urge the federal government not to wait for the ratification of the Kyoto treaty before taking further action, saying Australia business and industry "runs the risk of missing out on global opportunities and may be left behind in terms of greenhouse compliance." Australia was one of only a handful of countries allowed to increase its emissions in the treaty-108% above 1990 levels-but even this increase means a cut in emissions of 25%, about 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, from the "business-as-usual" growth by 2010. The authors noted that eliminating all Australian road transport, including private cars, would achieve a cut of 60 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. A carbon credits trading system is recommended as a means of tackling the problem. Prime Minister John Howard has not responded to the report.

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