Australia's new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the paperwork Monday to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, making good on an election promise that will leave the U.S. isolated among industrialized countries in shunning the international global warming pact.
The dramatic step just nine days after Rudd was elected looked likely to send Australia's standing soaring at international climate change talks that started Monday in Indonesia and to intensify pressure on Washington to join the Kyoto framework.
The Bali conference aims to launch negotiations toward a pact to replace Kyoto when it expires at the end of 2012.
(Related story: Dire Global Warming Forecast Issued by UN Panel [November 17, 2007])
Rudd, 50, led the left-leaning Labor Party to a sweeping victory in November 24 elections that ended more than 11 years of conservative rule under former Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
Howard had steadfastly refused to ratify Kyoto, arguing that Australia would not agree to a pact setting greenhouse gas emission targets unless big polluters among developing countries, such as China and India, were also subject to binding targets.
Australia's overall contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions are small, but it is one of the largest polluters per capita and its stance on Kyoto is powerfully symbolic.
In a sign of the significance of Australia's policy shift, delegates and scientists at the conference in Bali erupted in applause Monday when Australia's delegate, Howard Bamsey, told the plenary that Canberra was coming on board the Kyoto process.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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