Rudd plans shock tactics for UN talks on climate

ANDREW PROBYN FEDERAL POLITICAL EDITOR NEW YORK

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd intends applying shock therapy to fellow world leaders at this week's United Nations gathering to convince them the damaging effects of climate change are already being felt.

Mr Rudd, who arrived in New York yesterday for the UN General Assembly meeting, said too many people mistakenly believed the world still had time to develop a response to climate change.

He said the drying up of Australia's food bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin, and the existing threat to Pacific nations from rising sea levels amply showed the "real and present danger" from rising C0{-2} levels.

"It ain't long term, it's happening now," Mr Rudd said shortly after arriving.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has made Mr Rudd a co-facilitator of the talks this week to get maximum political momentum ahead of the crucial climate change summit in Copenhagen in December.

"Part of the challenge which I support from the Secretary-General is to make this real, immediate and graphic in terms of the costs now, and therefore to accelerate action now," Mr Rudd said.

"There's a danger, speaking absolutely frankly, that options for final decisions in Copenhagen are left too late."

Mr Rudd said the prospect of glacial progress on tackling climate change in the months ahead would not deter the Government pushing ahead with its emissions trading scheme because business needed certainty.

Overnight, he met with former US president Bill Clinton, whose Clinton Global Initiative organisation is seeking to forge collaboration between the private sector and non-governmental organistions to find solutions to climate change.

One hurdle facing negotiations is how advanced countries fund climate change adjustment in poorer nations.

In a speech to the New York University School of Law overnight, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong revealed that Australia has been working on a legal structure that could appease developing nations unwilling or unable to commit to economy-wide targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Nations would be able to choose from a series of legally-binding schedules that could include renewable energy targets, a technology standard or a target to reduce deforestation, submitting a schedule before December.

"These could be chosen by the country depending on its circumstances," Senator Wong said. "Developed countries would be expected to record an ambitious economy-wide emissions reduction target.

"For developing countries, taking on international mitigation obligations for the first time is a big deal - but the flexibilities in schedules are designed to give them greater comfort."

The Australian mission to the US, which by week's end will include Cabinet ministers Stephen Smith, Wayne Swan and Senator Wong, will also promote Australia as a place for foreign investment, given it was the only one of the OECD's 33 countries not to fall into recession and has four of the world's nine AA-plus rated banks.