Australia Pledges New Funds to Cut Greenhouse Gases

SYDNEY ~ Australian Prime Minister John Howard has pledged AUS$60 million (US$46.2 million) for projects to cut greenhouse emissions, amid mounting pressure on the government to fight global warming.

Howard’s announcement came just days after a major British report noted Australia had refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and warned of the dire economic consequences of inaction.

The funding includes almost $20 million for clean coal technology and $17.5 million for renewable energy projects, including high-efficiency solar power stations and solar-enhanced transport fuels.

Some $6 million were earmarked for projects to improve electricity efficiency in buildings and appliances, while $2.5 million would go towards helping the aluminium industry cut emissions.

“The projects cover a range of areas, including renewable energies, improving the environmental performance of fossil fuels, energy efficiency and best environmental practice in sectors such as coal mining and aluminium production,” Howard said on Wednesday.

The prime minister and his industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, said a total of 42 projects would be developed in collaboration with five other countries in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP-6).

The group – comprising Australia, India, Japan, China, South Korea and the US – met for the first time in Sydney in January.

“The Asia-Pacific Partnership includes countries that represent about half of the world’s emissions, energy use, GDP and population,” Howard said.

“(It) is an important initiative that engages, for the first time, the key greenhouse-gas emitting countries in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The announcement of the funding package adds to last week’s unveiling of a $500-million drive to tackle climate change, including seed funds for projects such as the world’s largest photovoltaic energy plant.

Howard said on Tuesday, however, that Australia would refuse to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, because it did not force major polluters such as India and China to cut their emissions.

Former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern said in a landmark report in Britain on Monday the economic fallout of climate change could be on the scale of the two world wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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