Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Wednesday that his country has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent on 2000 levels by 2050.
Rudd made the remarks while addressing the opening session for a high-level segment of the U.N. climate change conference in Bali, a resort island of Indonesia.
He said his country is ready to assume responsibility in responding to climate change challenge both at home and in the negotiations that lie ahead across the community of nations. "In my first fact as Prime Minister, I signed the formal instrument for Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol," he said.
"I have just handed this instrument to the Secretary General of the United Nations," he said, adding that "I have done this because I believe that climate change is now one of the great moral and economic challenges of our time."
He said climate change is no longer a distant threat for Australia. It's no longer a scientific theory. "Our inland rivers are dying; bushfires are more ferocious, and more frequent; our unique natural wonders, -- the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, our rainforests -- are now at risk," said Rudd.
"Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. Our choice will impact all future generations. This is a global problem that requires a global solution," he noted.
"It requires a multilateral solution. Unilateral action is not enough. We must all shoulder our share of the burden," he stressed.
"For too long skeptics have warned of the costs of taking action on climate change. But the costs of action are far less than the costs of inaction," he said.
"We must lift our national and international gaze beyond the immediate horizon to comprehend the magnitude of the economic and environmental challenge unfolding before us," said the prime minister.
"Action to tackle climate change will not be easy. It will require tough choices. And some of these will come at a political price," he said.
He warned that "Unless we act, the long term costs will threaten the security and stability of us all."
Australia will implement a comprehensive emissions trading scheme by 2010 to deliver its short and medium term targets, which will set the Australian economy "firmly" on the path to achieving its commitment to a 60 percent reduction in emissions by 2050, he said.
Rudd called for moving forward as a truly "United Nations" with developed and developing nations working in the parallel, saying "We expect all developed countries to embrace a further set of binding emissions targets -- and we need this meeting at BaIi to map out the process and timeline for this to happen," he said.
"We need all developed nations -- those within the framework of the Kyoto protocol and those outside that framework -- to embrace comparable efforts in order to bring about the global outcomes the world now expects of us."
Meanwhile, he said, "We must all respect the aspiration of developing nations to secure their economic development and deliver rising living standards for their people."
He concluded," There is no other planet any of us can escape to. We only have this one. And none of us can do it alone. The generations of the future will judge us harshly if we fail."
Rudd arrived at Bali Tuesday as part of the Australian delegation to the Dec. 3-14 U.N. climate change conference, which is tasked with drawing up a roadmap for negotiations in the next two years before the current phase of the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012.
The high-level segment of the U.N. climate change conference is being attended by heads of state and government and environment ministers, who are expected to make the final decision on an international agreement on enhanced global action on climate change.
The segment, due to conclude on Friday, was proceeded by a series of sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, its subsidiary bodies as well as the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol.
The climate conference brings together representatives of over 180 countries together with observers from intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations.