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Protests heat up over Australia's climate plan

Australian PM Kevin Rudd.
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Dec 16, 2008
Angry protests erupted in Australia on Tuesday as environmentalists accused the government of "surrendering" by pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions by only five percent by 2020.

As senior scientists called for deeper cuts, hundreds of people attended a wave of rallies around the country to urge stronger action on climate change or risk the loss of natural treasures such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was elected a year ago on a platform which included acting on climate change as a priority, committed the country Monday to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by five percent of 2000 levels by 2020.

Green groups immediately attacked the plan, which would allow for cuts of up to 15 percent if an international agreement was reached on combating climate change, as a "global embarrassment."

Rudd defended the cuts as "a responsible course of action" necessary for the economy and for dealing with the environmental challenge of climate change.

"The Australian government, given the global financial crisis, makes no apologies whatsoever for introducing responsible medium term targets to bring down our greenhouse gas emissions, capable of being built on in the future more ambitiously," he told reporters in remote Western Australia.

But Greens leader Bob Brown said voters were angry with the policy and his party would attempt to amend the scheme in the Senate to increase the targets to cuts of between 25 and 40 percent from 1990 levels.

"I think it's an appalling and disgusting failure by the Rudd government in their duty to this nation's future," Senator Brown told reporters.

At Rudd's Brisbane office, protesters raised a white flag scorning what they saw as his surrender on an issue which Queensland Greens parliamentarian Ronan Lee said would ruin the Great Barrier Reef and the Kakadu wetlands.

"Mr Rudd is completely surrendering on climate change, he is admitting that he has no plan to genuinely deliver on climate change," Lee said.

Outside Parliament House in the national capital Canberra, about 100 people gathered to reject Rudd's cuts while in Sydney more than 100 demonstrators rallied outside government offices.

"Today's protest is to tell Kevin Rudd that the Australian people didn't vote for five percent," New South Wales Greens lawmaker John Kaye said.

"What they wanted was action on climate change, what they wanted was targets that put Australia as world leaders on climate change and not as losers."

About 70 protesters gathered in Melbourne to vow to fight for higher cuts while in the southern island of Tasmania 15 activists stormed a pulp mill where some chained themselves to equipment to halt production.

In Adelaide, protesters tossed shoes at a Rudd lookalike to display their disgust, copying an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush at a news conference in Baghdad.

The government's independent advisor on climate change, Professor Ross Garnaut, has already warned that cuts of 10-25 percent should be introduced and Australia's top climate scientists Tuesday said the cuts did not go far enough.

"I personally would have preferred somewhat bigger cuts," Monash University's Neville Nicholls, who worked on the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Andy Pittman, co-director of the climate change research centre at the University of New South Wales and also an IPCC author, said the cuts were a good start but Australia had missed an opportunity to show leadership.

"It needs to be much deeper than that if we want to avoid dangerous, anthropogenic climate change," he said.

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Walker's World: EU's bad crisis deal
Washington (UPI) Dec 15, 2008
As usual, the leaders of the 27 EU countries resolved the insults and arguments of the preceding weeks and reached what looked like a reasonable compromise at their summit in Brussels. On examination, however, Europe is paying a steep price for a poor and somewhat squalid deal.

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