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SYDNEY - Australia's new government must move quickly to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions after ratifying the Kyoto Protocol or risk breaching the pact, an expert warned yesterday.
Labour leader Kevin Rudd was swept to victory in a landslide on Saturday on a mandate that included signing up to the UN-backed Kyoto process to limit carbon pollution, a policy he flagged as his first priority.
Outgoing conservative prime minister John Howard had refused to ratify the landmark pact but had insisted Australia would meet its Kyoto target anyway. But Clive Hamilton, founder of the public policy think-tank Australia Institute, said the country's emissions were heading above the Kyoto Protocol target of 108percent of 1990 levels by 2012.
"Our emissions are growing at about 1,5 to twopercent a year - you can see that between now and 2012 it's going to reach 130percent," Hamilton said.
"It does mean that the Rudd government is going to have to introduce some policies that do bite into that because the Howard government has not taken measures to restrict growth in emissions." UN Framework Convention on Climate Change figures issued last week show that Australia is 25,6percent over the 1990 benchmark, although Australian environment department officials insist the country's emissions are tracking to be just one percent over the target by 2012.
Hamilton said the discrepancy was due to the illusion in the Australian statistics of land clearing, change in land use and forestry, which the Kyoto Protocol allows Australia to use to buffer its emissions figures.
The Australia Institute is part of the International Climate Change Task Force with the Centre for American Progress and Britain's Institute for Public Policy Research.
Hamilton said Rudd may have to overstep the campaign pledge to boost renewable supplies to 20percent of total electricity output by 2020 to meet the target. - Sapa-AFP