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Australian minister supports US 'practical road map' on cutting greenhouse gas

Australian minister supports US 'practical road map' on cutting greenhouse gas

Australia welcomed a U.S. proposal for 15 nations to agree on a global emission goal by next year, as an Australian report warned Friday against waiting for global agreement on climate change.
Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull described U.S. President George W. Bush's plan for the United States and 14 other major polluters to embrace targets as "a practical road map for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions in a very practical way."
The president outlined his proposal in a speech ahead of next week's summit in Germany of leading industrialized nations, where global warming is to be a major topic.
Australia, the world's worst greenhouse gas polluter per capita, joined with the United States in refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the countries Bush has targeted with his proposal.
Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio the plan was "very consistent" with Australia's approach on a number of international initiatives to reduce pollution.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said climate change will be a major agenda item when he chairs the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' forum in Sydney in September.
On Friday he released a government-commissioned climate change report that warned "Australia should not wait until a genuinely global agreement has been negotiated."
A committee of 12 business leaders and bureaucrats, chaired by Howard's most senior bureaucrat Peter Shergold, found during its five-month investigation of climate change that the benefits to Australia of acting quickly to curb carbon emissions outweighed the costs.
The report recommended that the government set a cap on the amount of air pollution allowed, and create within four years a system in which polluters can trade emission entitlements.
The report also recommended that Australia set a long-term target, but it does not suggest what that target should be or what price should be placed on the pollution.
Any target should take into account Australia's unique circumstances and its abundance of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, the report said.
"Australia should continue to take a cautious approach to the adoption of targets proposed internationally," the report said.
Howard has yet to say whether he will accept the report's recommendations.
"The decisions taken about climate change will be the most critical and far-reaching economic decision this country will take in a decade," Howard told reporters.
"They are economic decisions of profound significance and they've got to be taken with great care for the future of the economy because if they're got wrong, future generations will pay very dearly," he said.