Australia signed on Sunday the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol which means the country will become a full member of the protocol early next year. It was incoming Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd first official act of his new government.
Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said Australia's decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol puts the nation back on the map in the fight against climate change. During the United Nations Climate Change (UNCC) conference in Bali, delegates broke into spontaneous applause when news of Australia's decision was announced. Some delegates of the 12-day conference gave the Australian delegation a standing ovation. Senator Wong says the decision sets Australia up for a leadership role at the conference. "Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol puts Australia back on the map," she said. "The world now knows that this nation is prepared to do its bit and be part of the global solution to climate change. This gives us an impetus to go into the Bali conference to set that leadership role. "The purpose of the Bali conference is to set out the road map for what happens post the Kyoto period. "We want to ensure that what we agree in Bali gives Australia and the world the best chance to moving towards a solution on climate change." Mr Rudd, Senator Wong, Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Treasurer Wayne Swan are expected in the Bali summit next week. The agreement means Australia's greenhouse gas emissions should not be higher than 8 percent above 1990 levels. Environmental groups believe the Australian economy could easily manage even more ambitious targets. John Connor, chief executive of the Climate Institute, says Australia could cut its emissions by 20 percent by 2020. "What this concludes is that we can actually have a strong leadership position with barely a ripple on economic growth. We'd still see a tripling of the economy through to 2050 and strong employment and quality of life growth," Connor said. Mr. Rudd's decision to sign the Kyoto climate accord isolates the United States, which will now be the only developed nation not to ratify the agreement. Australia's former conservative government refused to ratify Kyoto, saying it would damage the economy with its heavy reliance on coal exports, while countries like India and China were not bound by emissions targets. Mr. Rudd's cabinet specifically created a new portfolio of Minister for Climate Change and Water, held by Penny Wong, an ethnic Chinese immigrant from Malaysia. She is one of seven women in cabinet, including deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.