With Howard gone, Australia signs up to Kyoto

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The Independent Online

The news that Australia had signed up to the Kyoto protocol was greeted with applause on the first day of climate talks in Bali yesterday, leaving the US as the only developed nation not to ratify the pact.

Australia's new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, wasted no time in breaking with the policies of his conservative predecessor, John Howard. The thousands of delegates to the UN-led talks will try to agree a path toward a successor to the largely symbolic Kyoto pact over the next fortnight.

An increasingly isolated US delegation, led by the veteran negotiator Harlan Watson, sought to deflect criticism with claims that they would not block efforts to launch a new agreement. "We're not here to be a roadblock," he said. While much of the focus at Bali will be on cutting emissions, comparatively little attention is being given to the costs to poor countries of climatic changes that we are already locked in to. Any cuts in current emissions levels, scientists warn, will take 20 years to change the balance of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

A UN fund set up by rich countries to help poor countries to adapt to climate change has so far received less than 34m, Oxfam says in a report published today.

"This figure represents quite an insult, to be frank, given that the least developed countries will need at least $1bn [500m] to meet just their most urgent adaptation needs," said the report's author, Charlotte Sterrett.

Oxfam estimates that adapting to climate change in developing countries is likely to cost at least $50bn each year. Yet current pledges to the UN's Least Developed Countries Fund, set up for this purpose, have reached just $163m and only $67m has been delivered.

Have your say: Readers give their views on the Bali climate change conference

It's somewhat hypocritical that vested interests in climate change get to frequently visit prime locations in the world and then tell me I shouldn't go to France (except by bicycle). Shouldn't they set an example by video-conferencing these jamborees?

Eddie

Conferences are an ideal way of giving the impression of doing something, whilst achieving nothing an ideal forum to share blame and avoid responsibility. I would be interested in knowing what major environmental saving initiatives are achieved at this conference.

Richard

For a long time now an increasing number of scientists have warned us about global warming and as Lovelock pointed out, these changes will not be minor inconveniences but a threat to the survival of humanity, yet our leaders respond by referring to new green economic opportunities.

Graham

The success of this, or any, summit seems unlikely given the level of commitment required. Elected governments don't make hard choices for fear of losing votes. The only way to reduce pollution is to burn less oil and other fossil fuels. I can't see this happening while India and China among others are expanding at such a phenomenal rate.

Peter Byron, Exeter

Any future climate treat must allow for carbon that is directly captured from the atmosphere and stored. Air capture technology has the potential to save us because if it can be made to work, it could remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

David Sevier

It would appear that the air-miles covered by the delegates wasn't a worry for the organisers. It is not surprising that there are sceptics who do not believe that it is human activity that is a main cause of global warming. From their actions it would appear that those attending the conference may secretly be of the same opinion.

Stephen Woodbine

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