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Aussies should ratify Kyoto - Bishop

Australia should ratify the Kyoto Protocol, says Catholic Earthcare chairman, Bishop Christopher Toohey, to stand in solidarity with the 150 countries which have agreed to abide by the United Nations' global warming agreement. The Bishop's remarks come as Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, and Labor's Anthony Albanese crossed swords over the integrity of Australia's position.

Speaking on the eve of the new UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (2005 - 2014) Wilcania-Forbes Bishop Toohey told Online Catholics said that Australia's refusal to ratify the Protocol was "a concern."

" The Kyoto Protocol asks that developed countries pledge to lower their greenhouse gas emissions by just on 6% by 2012," Bishop Toohey said. "But the best science available tells us that what is needed is more like a 60% reduction. Therefore for the sake of our children and God's Earth, Australia should stand alongside the large number of countries who have signed and ratified the agreement, which would, in any case, be just a first step," Bishop Toohey said.

According the CSIRO some parts of New South Wales could become uninhabitable within the next 70 years if countries continue to emit greenhouse gases at the current rate. In a worst-case scenario, droughts could increase by 70% and the number of days above 35-degrees could double by 2030.

Australia and the United States are the only two developed nations that have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, an international and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gases emissions world wide. Pressure is on the two nations following the signing of the Protocol by Russia, on 18 November, which marked the start of the ninety day count down to the entry in force of the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr Colin Brown, Executive Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia, said that Australia has a special responsibility to support endeavours to reduce global warming because of the effects of climate change on the Pacific Island nations. "As some of the worst emitters per person of greenhouse gases on the planet, Australians are particularly challenged in justice to reflect on the plight of our Pacific island nation neighbours," Mr Brown said. "The cry of the seven million inhabitants of these beautiful islands, including Tuvalu, Kiribati, Palau, Tonga, Nauru and the Cook Islands, who fear that their lands will be battered and submerged by rising sea levels and changing weather patterns, requires us to take immediate measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

Mr Brown noted that even the Pentagon had recommended action be taken to address climate change. A study on global warming commissioned by the Pentagon - and leaked to the US media last February - described scenarios in which rising sea levels leave European cities submerged under water, while other parts of the globe are hit with extremes of heat and cold, typhoons, mega-droughts and famines. "Humanity would revert to its norm of constant battles for diminishing resources," noted the Pentagon analysis. "Once again, warfare would define human life."

Bishop Toohey, who is the chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Justice Ecology and Peace which sponsors Catholic Earthcare Australia, has two major initiatives planned for next year. One is the introduction of an environmental audit for use by schools and other institutions with which to determine their environmental efficiency. The second is a major confererence on climate change, which will bring together the best scientific and theological thinkers in the southern hemisphere. The conference, which is likely to take place next Novermber, will seek to view questions of climate change from the point of view of the nations of the South.

"We have to kick the fossil fuel 'habit'," said Bishop Toohey, who is also a keen amateur astronomer. "It is not a question of politics. It is a question of uncovering the facts on climate change and acting on those facts, in the light of the Gospel," the Bishop said.

Read more:

  • Catholic Earthcare Australia
  • Kyoto Thermometer
  • Ratification Status of nations
  • Bishops Committee Justice Development Ecology and Peace

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