Australia's new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his first official act after being sworn in on Monday ratified the Kyoto Protocol, but warned that the country is likely to face harsh penalties for missing its target under the treaty.
Labour Party leader Rudd, who became Australia's 26th prime minister on Monday, immediately began dismantling the former government's policies by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
Rudd signed the instrument of ratification after receiving the required approval from Governor-General Michael Jeffery on Monday, coinciding with the start of post-Kyoto talks in Bali. The news was greeted with applause on the floor of the Bali conference.
Australia would become a full Kyoto member before the end of next March, as the ratification becomes effective 90 days after being received by the United Nations, Rudd said, according to latest media reports here.
"Australia's official declaration today that we will become a member of the Kyoto Protocol is a significant step forward in our country's efforts to fight climate change domestically and with the international community," he said.
Rudd, who ousted conservative leader John Howard in elections nine days ago on a platform that included reversing the previous government's policy and ratifying Kyoto, was sworn in just hours earlier.
While the former coalition government insisted it was on track to meet that goal, Rudd is less confident. "We are currently likely to ... Overshoot our Kyoto target by one per cent," he told local radio channel here. He said penalties would be set out under the post-Kyoto deal that kicks in after 2012.