Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Australians condemn climate plan

Dam dried up following prolonged drought in Parkes, New South Wales
Australia has been hit by the worst drought in a century

Environmental activists have staged protests in several Australian cities against a plan to combat climate change announced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Some campaigners held up white flags to signify Australia's "surrender" to climate change, while others reportedly threw shoes at a puppet of Mr Rudd.

Under the plan greenhouse gas emissions will be cut by at least 5% by 2020 and a carbon trading scheme will be set up.

But critics say it is inadequate, with some calling it a "joke".

'Disgusting failure'

In Sydney, protesters rallied around federal government offices, some stacking sandbags against the buildings to highlight the threat of rising sea levels caused by a warming climate.

In the capital Canberra, dozens of protesters booed outside parliament, while in Melbourne protesters carried white flags of surrender.

"I think it is an appalling and disgusting failure by the Rudd government in their duty to this nation's future," Australian Greens party leader Bob Brown told reporters, according to Reuters news agency.

In Adelaide, activists reportedly threw shoes at a puppet of Mr Rudd, in apparent imitation of a recent Iraqi journalist's act of protest against US President George W Bush in Baghdad last Sunday.

Mr Rudd had promised huge cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in Australia - one of the world's biggest emitters - when he came to office over a year ago.

Scheme defended

The new measures, announced on Monday, include cutting emissions by between between 5% and 15% by 2020, from 2000 levels, and introducing a carbon trading scheme in 2010.

Mr Rudd's climate change minister, Penny Wong, has defended the scheme, saying it seeks to "strike the right balance" between the needs of the environment and Australia's economy.

But activists say the changes will not go far enough to prevent catastrophic change. Many have called for emissions to be cut by at least 25% by 2020 - as recommended by the UN's specialist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"Five per cent is a joke," student Rachael Chick, attending the Sydney protests, told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

"I voted for Kevin Rudd in the last election pretty much because of his stance on climate change. Now I think he's just being a fence-sitter."

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