Filed by Erika Engelhaupt
The conference started on Monday with the news that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd officially signed on to the Kyoto Protocol. The ratification was one of Rudd’s first acts in office.
The Australian delegation announced at the meeting that the Prime Minister intends to cut the country’s emissions by 60% by 2050. Some environmental groups at the meeting are already calling the goals modest. The Climate Action Network, a group of non-governmental organizations, pointed out in its summary of the day’s events that Australia has a “startlingly low baseline” that should allow easy progress toward its targets.
Many at the conference are pointing out that Australia’s ratification leaves the U.S. standing quite alone as the only industrialized nation holding out against mandatory cuts in emissions. “On the fundamentals, there’s been no shift on the part of the [Bush] administration,” said Elliot Diringer of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change at a press briefing, noting that the U.S. stuck to a vision of voluntary emission cuts at the recent G8 summit. That leaves many here looking ahead to the next administration for major change—and Pew’s president Eileen Claussen notes that a new administration likely will not be ready to negotiate until mid-2009 at the earliest.