Even as environmentalists celebrated Australia's signing into the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, The Climate Institute has slammed the country as being one of the most wasteful countries in the developed world.
It will have to live "smarter" to reduce the effects of climate change, it said while welcoming the new Rudd government's gesture in ratifying the protocol.
Advertisement"It's really a first step, what we are building here in the Kyoto framework is a framework for tackling climate change and building a system of rules and accountability that will actually drive greenhouse pollution down," the Institute's chief executive John Connor told Channel 9.
He said the United Nations negotiations currently underway in Bali will need to set a road map for climate change action after 2012.
Connor said Australia had a real incentive to take a stronger leadership position on the issue.
"Australia is one of the most wasteful energy countries in the developed world," he said.
Australians will need to make a whole range of changes to achieve the greenhouse gas emission targets needed to turn around the effects of climate change, he said.
"(They) won't necessarily impact so much on our quality of life but we'll be much smarter about the way we live," he said.
"Things like insulation and having solar hot-water systems - they make a big difference to the amount of energy that we use and of course we need to turn to public transport more.
"The sorts of things where governments need to step in and provide the policies and the investments to make those changes."
Connor said Australians acknowledged that climate change was happening and were willing to make a difference.
"I think Australians are really understanding that climate change is real, it's here now, we see it in our drought, in water restrictions and (they're) very worried about their kids' future."
Meantime another report said that previous Howard government had misled the United Nations over the scale of its efforts to tackle climate change and meet its Kyoto emission reduction targets.
Australia's greenhouse emissions were "considerably higher" than those quoted in a 2005 report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the discrepancy may have been as high as 20 per cent, sources said.
Apparently the scale and success of research efforts were also over-stated in the report, with the government boasting of its support for renewable energy programs that were struggling to continue because of federal funding cuts.
The Howard regime's claims of support for climate change research also came at a time when several senior scientists were rebuked and subsequently forced out of their jobs in the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) by for publicly discussing climate change issues.
The 2005 report to the UN summarised the progress made by Australia to meet its domestic and international actions to address climate change under a global agreement signed by 192 countries.
In the report, the Department of Environment and Heritage and the Australian Greenhouse Office claimed Australia's greenhouse emissions had increased by just over 1 per cent between 1990 and 2003.
The report said Australia was on track to meet its Kyoto Protocol target of limiting emissions to 108 per cent of 1990 levels by 2012, and claimed Australia's per capita emissions had decreased by just more than 12 per cent.
But a subsequent World Bank report revealed Australia's annual carbon dioxide emissions had increased by 107 million tonnes, or 38 per cent, between 1994 and 2004.
Australia's per capita emissions declined by 7.5 per cent between 1991 and 2001, because of new state laws curbing clearing of native bushland.
While per capita emissions from land clearing dropped by 12 per cent, greenhouse emissions from other sources, such as road transport and coal-fire electricity, grew by 5 per cent.
Australia is now the developed world's biggest greenhouse polluter with per capita emissions of more than 26 tonnes a person.
Despite rising emissions from road transport, the federal government report claimed an annual 10 day solar car race had significantly "increased awareness of global warming", and consumers were buying cars "with improved performance, size and comfort" but still achieving gains in fuel efficiency.
The report also said government was supporting the development of "leading-edge solar technologies, including high efficiency applications such as sliver cells".
At the time the report was written, the Australian National University's sliver cells which are predicted to dramatically cut the cost of solar power had received a federal grant of just $2 million to assist in commercial development.
Origin Energy, which invested $30million in a pilot project to commercialise the sliver cell technology, later used its annual report to criticise the government's inaction on climate change, claiming the "lack of a long-term framework for applying a carbon cost is a major impediment to the investment in the energy sector."
Anyway with the new Kevin Rudd government signaling it means business on the environmental front, things could change for the better, it is hoped.
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