Yes, Australia has joined the civilized world and ratified the Kyoto protocol, though it will take until March for the UN to do the paperwork.
Of course, the main game now is the Bali conference, which opened to Australia getting a round of applause for its actions. Most of the developed world has, unilaterally, started to pencil in carbon cuts, so in some sense the biggest question is what, if anything, the developing countries will agree to.
With that, it’s worth having a read of these pair of posts on Troppo by Nick Gruen and Peter Gallagher on the Bali negotiations. Gallagher is skeptical of the whole concept of a global treaty with a bunch of national targets, and seems to think that our recently-deposed PM was on to something with his “overlapping regional agreements” proposal (why this is supposed to help I’ve no idea, but anyway). Nick Gruen argues for a position something like the contraction and convergence model, where entitlements to emit carbon would be handed out on the basis of population size.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that the industrializing countries will have to face binding targets soon – we simply can’t cut greenhouse gas enough without their contribution. But, just as important as the model that they use, is what disincentives are placed before them in the event they do not agree.
As noted in the comments threads of the Club Troppo post, French president Nicholas Sarkozy is beginning to float the obvious disincentive – carbon tariffs, in a speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing:
“I will defend the principle of a carbon compensation mechanism at the EU’s borders with regard to countries that don’t put in place rules for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Sarkozy said.
I wonder if Sarkozy will find any allies for that idea across the Atlantic? Will we see the developed countries hang together on this issue?