Social Action Office

Climate Change Campaign

Friends of the Earth (FOE) Response

Australia and the USA Climate Change Agreement

New Environment Minister Dr David Kemp has signed a secret deal which ties Australia to the US policy of not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Join the international community in condemning this deal which threatens the planet with dangerous levels of climate change.



The new Australian Environment Minister Dr David Kemp has signed a bilateral agreement which ties Australia to the US policy of refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

The Australia/US Climate Action Partnership announced on 27 February 2002 jeopardises ten years of negotiations toward developing a coordinated international response to climate change.

Ironically, the text of the Kyoto Protocol was repeatedly amended to accommodate the obstinacy of Australia and the US.

Calls to ratify the Kyoto Protocol have come from 80% of the Australian population as well as from the big end of business, including BP Chief Executive Greg Bourne, former liberal party leader John Hewson and the world's two largest re-insurance companies, Swiss Re and Munich Re.

The largest polluter by volume is the US and the largest per capita polluter is Australia.

With the text of the Kyoto Protocol now finalised, many governments will move to ratify the Protocol before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg this year - the tenth anniversary of the signing of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Rio Earth Summit.

The Australian Government could have the casting vote on whether the Kyoto Protocol comes into force internationally.

The agreement has been condemned by environment organisations world-wide. It threatens arctic areas, low-lying islands and deltas, alpine ecosystems, coral reefs, agricultural production, weather patterns and ocean currents; systems which support life on earth as we know it.


What you can do:

Express your concern by emailing the Federal environment minister, his adviser and the Prime Minister:

Cut and paste the message below into an email.

NB: A blank subject line makes it more difficult for them to ignore your message.


I call on the Australian Government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and rejoin the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 1992 the Australian Government signed the United Nations Framework on Climate Change which acknowledges "that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions" (UNFCCC 1992).

I call on the Australian Government to cease using developing countries as an excuse for not reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions. The UNFCCC which Australia signed notes "that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries, that per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs" (UNFCCC 1992).

Furthermore I draw to your attention the fact that:

  • Australian greenhouse gas emissions are 27 tonnes per person per year (the global average is 4 tonnes per person per year);
  • 80 per cent of the Australian population supports ratification of the Kyoto Protocol;
  • Climate change is already affecting global weather patterns and causing sea
    levels to rise, affecting the livelihood of millions of people.

Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by transferring fossil fuel subsidies (currently $6 billion a year in Australia) to renewable energy industries such as wind, solar and hydrogen.


(a) Assertion: The Australia-US plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Reality: The US plan ties emission reductions to economic growth. While 70% reductions in CO2 emissions are needed, the US plan aims to reduce emissions intensity (CO2 per unit of GDP) by 18%. The projected rate of GDP growth will outweigh reductions in emissions intensity resulting in a 1.4% increase in GHG emissions per year. Furthermore, the Australia-US plan relies on voluntary measures. The three countries to rely on voluntary measures have all experienced emissions growth: Canada +14%, US +11% and Australia +21% (relative to 1990).

(b) Assertion: Australia's Greenhouse Challenge Programme is "world leading".

Reality: 90% of participants failed to meet their emission reduction targets under the voluntary programme.

(c) Assertion: The Australia-US plan is more effective at engaging developing countries.

Reality: Under the Bush plan, emission standards will not come into force until 2018. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol lasts until 2008-2012, and it has been clearly stated that latter commitment periods will include targets for developing countries. Targets were not set for developing countries for the first commitment period because their current emissions are very low and their historical emissions are negligible. On a per capita basis China's emissions are 12 times less than Australia's.

(d) Assertion: A bilateral agreement between Australia and the US is good for industry because it provides a consistent business environment.

Reality: Major trading partners including the UK, the EU and Japan will be ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement developed over 10 years between 184 countries. 25 countries from Asia and Europe recently called on all countries to ratify the Protocol by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August this year.


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol

Climate Science
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
CSIROnline - Climate Projections for Australia

Climate Impacts on Australia
Climate Action Network Australia - Warnings from the Bush Report

Climate Economics
Global Commons Institute - equity for survival...
The Australia Institute - for a just, sustainable, peaceful future
Redefining Progress - Sustainable Economics
Rocky Mountain Institute (Amory Lovins)

Activism and Campaigns
Friends of the Earth International
Rising Tide - Climate Justice Network
Climate Action Network Australia (with links to member groups)

Political Analysis
Centre for Science and Environment (India)
The Heat is Online - based on the book The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, The Cover-Up, The Prescription by Ross Gelbspan (Perseus Books,1998)
EcoEquity - equal rights to global common resources
CorpWatch - Holding Corporations Accountable

Veggie Van - Run your vehicle on vegetable oil
Greenhouse Gas Calculator - Calculate your yearly greenhouse gas emissions
SafeClimate - a project of World Resources Institute

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