Australia plans Copenhagen climate pact compromise
CANBERRA (Reuters) - Developing economies shouldn't be locked into carbon lowering targets under a new global climate pact, Australia said on Monday, outlining a deal it hopes will avert failure at make-or-break talks in Copenhagen.
The plan by the world's biggest per-capita carbon polluter would give India and China flexibility to lower emissions through a "national schedule," potentially taking some of the heat from near-gridlocked talks between rich and developing countries.
"We simply won't get the broad participation from major developing economies that the climate needs and that Australia, in terms of our national interest, needs," Climate Minister Penny Wong said of Canberra's compromise proposal.
Talks on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, have stalled as nations squabble over how to share the job of cutting emissions and how much money rich countries should contribute to poorer ones to help them deal with climate change.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned on Monday that negotiations were "dangerously close to deadlock" ahead of U.N.-backed talks scheduled to take place in Copenhagen in December.
In a bid to find common ground, negotiators from around 190 nations plan lead-in meetings in New York, Pittsburgh, Bangkok and Barcelona ahead of the Copenhagen summit.
Under Australia's plan, outlined by Wong in a speech in New York, countries would register plans for lowering emissions, such as reducing deforestation, or setting renewable energy use targets, linking them to any broader post-Kyoto agreement.
"In other words, commitments won't be one-size-fits-all. They will be differentiated, and the actions countries take to fulfil those commitments will be varied in nature, reflecting different national circumstances," Wong said.
The Copenhagen summit needed to reach an agreement "less intimidating for new players," she said, while retaining the Kyoto pact's strides forward in reaching economy-wide targets with reporting and verification for developed nations.
Australia's center-left Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said at the weekend he was worried final climate change decisions had been left too late, with Copenhagen now less than 90 days away.
"If we get to that last point in Copenhagen and the wall is too high to scale, I fear we may not be able to reach it," Rudd said ahead of talks with leaders of the G20 group of nations this week in Pittsburgh.
The Copenhagen summit, Wong said, must reach clear agreement on the nature and form of a post-Kyoto pact, although the detail of a final agreement did not have to be settled.
"Countries will need to know what kind of an agreement they are signing on for," she said. "The legal structure of the agreement is not a topping, it's the base."
A study released last week by risk consultancy Maplecroft found Australia had surpassed the United States as the world's biggest per capita producer of carbon emissions due to its reliance on aging coal-fired power stations, generating about 80 percent of the country's electricity.
Each Australian produced 20.58 tonnes of carbon each year, against 19.78 tonnes for the United States and 4.5 tonnes for China, now the world's biggest greenhouse gas polluter overall.
(Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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