Monday, 30 November 2009

Australia And U.S. To Discuss Climate

SYDNEY -- Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will meet President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday to discuss climate-change strategies and the war in Afghanistan -- two thorny issues on which the Australian leader is unlikely to be able to offer much help despite the close relationship between the two men.

Mr. Rudd's plan to cut carbon emissions is stuck in the country's Senate as an unruly opposition fights within itself to decide whether to support the proposal. On Afghanistan, Australia has indicated that it isn't willing to offer more troops.
The White House said the U.S. president will meet Mr. Rudd to "confer on a range of issues including Afghanistan and climate change" in the run-up to a global U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen next month. Both leaders are struggling to put in place programs to reduce carbon emissions at home, complicating any plans to present a united front on the issue.
Mr. Obama said he will pledge in Copenhagen that the U.S. will plan to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050. But a U.S. climate plan, having passed the House of Representatives, is stalled in the Senate.
In Australia, Mr. Rudd reached an agreement last Tuesday with leaders of the main opposition Liberal Party to support an amended carbon reduction proposal that includes billions of dollars in compensation for affected industries.
But the amended proposal has since split the Liberal Party, with party leader Malcolm Turnbull -- a supporter -- under fire from conservatives and now facing a vote on his leadership position set for Tuesday. If he loses and is ousted as party leader, the government's greenhouse-gas emissions plan would likely be derailed.
Australia's ruling center-left Labor government needs extra votes in the Senate, where it lacks a majority, to pass laws. It had hoped that by amending its carbon plan with loan guarantees and other compensation for industry, it would win enough opposition support to push it through.
If the Senate, which rejected an earlier emissions plan in August, votes it down a second time, Mr. Rudd could use the double rejection as a trigger to call an early election. The government plan, if passed, would see Australia introduce in July 2011 a market-based carbon-trading program similar to one operating in Europe since 2005, forcing the biggest local polluters to pay for their greenhouse-gas emissions.
On Afghanistan, Australia says it hasn't received a request for more troops from the U.S. Its prime minister has consistently said he believes Australia's troop contribution of around 1,550 is about right.
Write to Iain McDonald at