Australia Signs Up to Ratifying Kyoto

The Associated Press
Monday, December 3, 2007; 2:58 AM

CANBERRA, Australia -- New Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the paperwork Monday to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, making good on an election promise that will leave the U.S. isolated among wealthy countries in shunning the international global warming pact.

"This is the first official act of the new Australian Government, demonstrating my government's commitment to tackling climate change," Rudd said in a statement issued hours after he was officially sworn in Monday.

The dramatic step just nine days after Rudd was elected looked likely to send Australia's standing soaring at international climate change talks that started Monday in Indonesia, and to intensify pressure on Washington to join the Kyoto framework. The Bali conference aims to launch negotiations toward a pact to replace Kyoto when it expires at the end of 2012.

Rudd said he had signed the "instrument of ratification" of the Kyoto Protocol. The document would now be sent to the United Nations, and ratification would come into force 90 days after it was received, Rudd said, predicting Australia would become a full member of the Kyoto Protocol before the end of March 2008.

Rudd, 50, led the left-leaning Labor Party to a sweeping victory at Nov. 24 elections that ended more than 11 years of conservative rule under former Prime Minister John Howard.

Howard had steadfastly refused to ratify Kyoto, arguing that Australia would not agree to a pact setting greenhouse gas emission targets unless big polluters among developing countries such as China and India were also subject to binding targets.

Rudd said Australia wanted to help fix the problem of global warming but that striking a new international agreement on the problem was not going to be easy.

"It'll take a lot of time, a lot of horse trading, a lot of negotiation, it's going to be a tough process," he said on Nine Network television.

Australia's overall contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions are small, but it is one of the largest polluters per capita and its stance on Kyoto is powerfully symbolic.

In a sign of the significance of Australia's policy shift, delegates and scientists at the conference in Bali erupted in applause Monday when Australia's delegate, Howard Bamsey, told the plenary that Canberra was coming on board the Kyoto process.

© 2007 The Associated Press