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Australia Admits It Won’t Meet Greenhouse Gas Target By 2000

March 29, 1995

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Australia, the nation that produces more greenhouse gases per person than any other country, admitted today it will not meet its pledge to reduce emissions by the end of the decade.

Environmentalists criticized Australia, with its fewer than 18 million people but heavy dependence on coal-powered industry, for insisting that developing nations make deep cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions while not adopting stringent regulations itself.

The federal government today announced a plan for reducing greenhouse gases that largely hinges on Australian industry voluntarily cutting its emissions by a shift to use of natural gas.

Environment Minister John Faulkner admitted that the package would not be enough to meet Australia’s international commitment of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2000.

But he said it would cut emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide to 3 percent above 1990 levels, the target adopted by industrial nations.

``If we’d done nothing, we’d be 14 per cent above our stablization target,″ Faulkner said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation director Trish Caswell called the government plan ``absolutely absurd.″

``Nowhere in the world have voluntary agreements by industry produced significant greenhouse reductions,″ she said.

Caswell said the government should have imposed a tax on coal use and introduced programs to reduce energy use, improve transportation and stop the clearing of native vegetation.

The government abandoned a proposed carbon tax after howls of protest that it would cripple Australian businesses, raising their costs and prices, and make them uncompetitive in the world market.

Australia will present its strategy to the two-week U.N. conference on climate change that opened Tuesday in Berlin.

Few countries are expected to be able to tell the conference that they will be certain to meet the 2000 goal.

Environmental groups have criticized Australia’s view that negotiations at Berlin on lower emission targets should be conditional on developing countries also committing themselves to emission reduction targets.

There are no targets for developing countries in the accord adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and these countries oppose the imposition of targets until developed countries meet their existing commitments.

Industrial nations produce half the world’s greenhouse gases. The United States alone accounts for 20 percent of those emissions.

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