SYDNEY - Nations with the biggest greenhouse gas emissions should be doing the most to fight climate change or the efforts of other countries will be cancelled out, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Monday.
As the United Nations holds climate talks in Peru, Bishop dismissed China's recent deal with the United States in which they agreed to work together to curb emissions as "business as usual", while rejecting the idea that pollution should be judged on a per capita measure.
In an interview with The Australian, she said "those countries that are emitting the most have the greatest responsibility in terms of the totality".
"If they continue to emit at the same rate, the major emitters will dwarf action taken by other countries."
Australia, with its use of coal-fired power and relatively small population of 23 million, is one of the world's worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters.
Its emissions, however, amount to only about 1.5 per cent of those globally.
Bishop and Trade Minister Andrew Robb will represent Australia during high-level talks at the UN climate conference in Lima this week.
The conference is intended to pave the way for a global deal on cutting carbon emissions to be agreed next year in Paris.
Bishop said the conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott would be "happy" to consider a Paris accord with binding emissions targets, but it would depend on what other nations were offering.
China, one of the world's top polluters, last month committed for the first time to limiting its greenhouse gas output by setting a target of around 2030 for its emissions to peak.
But it has also called on developed countries, with their long industrial histories, to do more than their less wealthy counterparts and take the lead in curbing emissions.
Bishop said the way forward had to break away from the idea of developed-developing world categories.
"What has China announced? China has announced business as usual to 2030 and then they'll think about what their reductions will be at a time when their population will slow and their development will slow in any event," she said.
Australia is committed to reducing its carbon emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, and has announced a Aus$2.55 billion (S$2.80 billion) Emissions Reduction Fund to give polluters financial incentives to cut back.
Environmentalists say it ought to target 15 per cent.
Abbott, who scrapped a carbon tax designed to combat climate change and has spoken repeatedly about the importance of the coal industry to Australia's prosperity, said the nation had "a good story to tell when it comes to emissions".
"We will deliver on our cuts to emissions and on 2005 figures, what we will deliver by 2020 is a 12 per cent cut," he told national radio.