U.S. Increasingly Isolated in Stance Against Kyoto

Kevin Rudd
Kevin Rudd, the new Australian Prime Minister, has promised to sign the Kyoto protocol.
Photo by .steve.t via Flickr

Just a day after being elected to office, incoming Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd met with government officials on Sunday to discuss ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, the international pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Rudd’s promise to commit his country to the treaty leaves the United States as the only industrialized nation not to ratify the decade-old agreement. Rudd has also accepted an invitation to attend the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, which is expected to be a landmark global meeting on the issue.

Rudd’s landslide victory over conservative John Howard ended the 11-year reign of Australia’s second-longest serving leader. Former Prime Minister Howard and U.S. President George W. Bush had been allies in their refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in 2005. But Australia’s worst drought in a century made environmental concerns a top priority in the recent election. “This is the only government around the world kicked out because of its inaction on global warming,” Nick Economou, head of the politics faculty at Monash University in Melbourne, told Bloomberg News.

Rudd’s Labor Party won more than 53 percent of the vote, according to the Australian Electoral Commission, and landed 82 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives. The opposition Liberal-National coalition holds 59 seats, leaving two independents and seven undecided.

Australia is the largest per-capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the industrialized world, though the United States has the highest emissions levels overall. China is expected to surpass the United States in greenhouse gas emissions this year, but as a developing country it is exempt from Kyoto restrictions. More than 170 nations have now ratified the climate treaty, which even after Australia joins will still only apply to some 30 percent of global emissions.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.

Just a day after being elected to office, incoming Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd met with government officials on Sunday to discuss ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, the international pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions.