Australian Leader Holds Firm On Climate Change

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World leaders must deal with the threat of global climate change despite the spreading "cancer" of the global financial crisis, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Friday.

Rudd backed the majority view that the 27-nation European Union reached in Brussels on Thursday that deep cuts must be made in greenhouse gas emissions despite slowing world economies.

Ahead of a meeting with Australian business leaders in Sydney, Rudd told Sky Television the economic problems made it "tougher for dealing with what is already a tough set of negotiations" on countering climate change.

"What I'd say to leaders around the world and to the community here in Australia is that the problem of climate change and global warming doesn't disappear because of the global financial crisis," Rudd said.

"Unless we deal with this, the roll-on consequences for the economy over time ... is huge," he added.

Referring to unpaid U.S. subprime mortgages, Rudd said "the cancer didn't just stay local: It spread across the world to all the other institutions that had been wrapped up in it."

Rudd was listening to the views of business leaders Friday on how the government can help stave off Australia's first recession in years.

The prime minister plans to introduce a national levy on carbon emissions in 2010 and is hoping for a new United Nations agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions at a climate change meeting in Copenhagen next year.

Australia is one of the world's worst carbon dioxide polluters per capita because of its heavy reliance on abundant coal reserves. As the driest continent after Antarctica, it is also considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

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