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Combet defends climate action at Doha


Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says it is in Australia's best interest to re-commit to the Kyoto Protocol even if a number of countries have walked away from the agreement.

Australia and 36 other industrialised countries signed up for binding emission cuts by 2020 at the weekend as part of a package of agreements extending the life of the Kyoto Protocol at a UN conference in Doha.

But Russia, Japan and Canada have withdrawn from the agreement, while major developing polluters such as China and India remained excluded from the protocol.

The United States still refuses to ratify Kyoto, which legally binds signatory nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.

Mr Combet said extending the life of Kyoto was important but was still not the whole response required because it did not bind all major emitters.

Every country that signed up again to Kyoto did so on the condition that negotiations towards a new, binding agreement involving all major polluters got underway promptly.

"Progress was made on that front at Doha," Mr Combet told ABC radio on Monday.

"It's in our interest to be part of the agreement, and it also helps get us towards, a stepping stone towards, a wider agreement."

Further, now that Australia has a carbon price mechanism in place, the Kyoto agreements will help create business certainty by ensuring they have access to the biggest carbon markets in the world.

Parliamentary secretary for climate change Mark Dreyfus, who was Australia's main representative at the Doha talks, rated progress at the summit as "good".

"We are now heading towards an agreement involving all major emitters across the world," he told ABC radio.

"That's a very significant difference from Kyoto, which imposes obligations only on the countries that were described as developing countries way back in 1992."

Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury denied Australia was becoming isolated on the issue of climate change.

"It is clear that there is a growing sense of urgency that action needs to be taken," he told ABC Television.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the coalition strongly supported the five per cent reduction target but added it should be done domestically in a way that did not hurt the economy.

Signing up to the second round of Kyoto was another act of a government "addicted to spending on politically correct causes", he said.

"We are determined to do what we reasonably can to reduce emissions, but it's got to be economically responsible as well as environmentally responsible," he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

"That's the problem with this government committing money that it just doesn't have."