All eyes will be on Australia’s commitment to fighting climate change at the UN meeting in Bonn this week that will see countries signalling their support for the next stage of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol is currently the only legally binding framework to reduce emissions but Australia has not yet indicated whether it will sign up.
Australia is one of more than 193 countries meeting in Bonn for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, the first since Durban in December.
Today (15 May) will see the opening of a plenary discussion on the Kyoto Protocol, which has a first commitment period due to expire at the end of this year.
Oxfam Australia’s climate change spokeswoman Kelly Dent said the Kyoto Protocol was an important stepping stone to an international agreement.
“All eyes will be on Australia to see if we intend to join with the 27 member countries of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, small island countries and the least developed countries, to form a coalition of those willing to take action on climate change globally,” Ms Dent said.
Countries that have signed on to the Kyoto Protocol need to confirm at the end of this year what their emissions reduction commitment will be for the period from 2013-2020.
“Just five years ago, the Labor Government swept to power on a promise to ratify Kyoto and re-join international efforts to combat climate change,” Ms Dent said.
“It seems hard to believe that Australia would contemplate a flight from the treaty, just at the moment when the Government has secured a price on carbon pollution and a mechanism to reduce greenhouse gases.”
She said key challenges for countries this year included raising ambition to close the gap between pledged emissions reduction targets and what’s really needed, and addressing how to share the necessary effort in an equitable manner between countries.
Ms Dent welcomed the appointment of Dr Justin Lee as Australia’s Ambassador for Climate Change, the Australian negotiator at the UNFCCC negotiations.
“Dr Lee has a direct understanding of the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities in Bangladesh, and we hope this will inform his work within the UNFCCC negotiations, as we know the world’s most vulnerable people already are facing greater droughts, floods, hunger and disease,” Ms Dent said.
“Without immediate action to reduce the world’s emissions, 50 years of development gains in poor countries may be lost. Oxfam urges the Australian Government to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol without delay.”
Oxfam Australia has a spokesperson available for comment in Bonn.
The opening plenary of the Kyoto Protocol talks will be on tonight at 6pm EST (webcast here): http://unfccc4.metafusion.com/kongresse/sb36/templ/ovw_live.php?id_kongressmain=217
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