Alexa

Climate change breakthroughs unlikely at APEC, but meeting could shape future agreements

Climate change breakthroughs unlikely at APEC, but meeting could shape future agreements

Breakthroughs on greenhouse gas reductions are unlikely at next week's summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, environmentalist and diplomats said, though high-level discussions could shape future climate change agreements.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum is expected to call for major polluters to make "measurable and verifiable contributions to meeting shared global goals," according to a draft declaration on climate change obtained by the environmental group Greenpeace and viewed by The Associated Press.
It makes no mention of emissions targets, instead calling for voluntary measures promoting the use of energy efficiency, forest protection and increased spending on cleaner forms of energy like wind and nuclear power.
Environmentalists have already condemned the approach as an empty strategy.
But any consensus reached in Sydney by APEC's 21 members _ which together use about 60 percent of global energy and include six of the top 10 carbon emitters in the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and Canada _ could influence talks at a U.N. conference in December in Bali, Indonesia that will be begin to chart the course for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
"If the Sydney declaration goes beyond diplomatic niceties, then it could shift the global debate on the framework for what the successor agreement to Kyoto would be," said Malcolm Cook, Asia-Pacific program director at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute.
The APEC leaders are expected to sign off on a climate change declaration at their Sept. 8-9 summit.
Some APEC delegates acknowledge it would be counterproductive to push for targets at the forum. It thrives on voluntary measures, they said, and is missing key players including India, Brazil and the European Union.
"We think it is appropriate not to mention any target on the reduction emission itself," said Virachai Plasai, a member of Thailand's APEC delegation.
"This is best left to the U.N. process because it's the main framework for that," he said. "It is a proven framework, although it could be more efficient. If you try and set up something, I'm not sure whether the non-APEC members would join it."
Kyoto requires 35 industrial nations to cut their global-warming emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The U.S. and Australia are the only industrialized nations not to sign Kyoto.
The EU wants a post-Kyoto agreement to limit global temperature rises at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above the levels of the preindustrial era. The EU, Canada and Japan have endorsed a 50 percent emissions reduction by 2050 to meet that goal and avoid the worst affects of global warming.
The U.S. and Australia have opposed mandatory cuts and maintain that developing nations such as China, India and Brazil must be included in any pact. China and India also argue against caps, saying it would impede their economic growth.
"I don't want to single China out, but China has got a major role to play," U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters in Washington in a briefing on APEC. "Any agreement without China is not going to be an effective agreement. So my strategy has been to get China at the table."
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a harsh critic of Kyoto and former global warming skeptic, has put climate change at the top of the agenda at APEC, a year after the issue got only a passing mention in the group's final communique.
Howard says APEC could help design a new approach to climate change that will include developing as well as developed economies, and would allow flexibility depending on a country's development, and emphasize technological solutions.
"I believe APEC can help build consensus on a way forward that avoids the pitfalls of the Kyoto model," Howard said in a recent speech. "Kyoto divided the world into two groups, and required concerted action from only one of them, and its highly prescriptive approach threatened to make that division permanent."
APEC proposes to create a network to finance research and development into renewable energy and energy efficiency, and to increase forest cover in the APEC region to 20 million hectares (49.4 million acres).
Greenpeace spokesman Ben Pearson said the APEC draft declaration confirms that "Howard and Bush want to use the upcoming APEC meeting to derail international negotiations on continuing and strengthening the Kyoto Protocol on climate change."
"They are doing this to protect the Australian export coal industry, and American fossil fuel interests," he said.
Greg Bourne, chief executive of WWF Australia, said it was in Howard's interest "to be seen to have solved the climate change problem" at APEC because he is behind in opinion polls with elections due later this year. Australians rate global warming as a major concern.
But Don Henry of the Australian Conservation Foundation said pro-Kyoto APEC members could pressure Australia and the U.S. to embrace targets.
"It is a unique opportunity for China, Japan and the other APEC countries ... to really urge Australia and the United States to come on board with those efforts," Henry said. "Until they take that first step, it is very difficult for the United States and Australia's voice to be taken seriously about what should be happening after 2012."
___
AP Business Writer Malcolm Foster contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-08 03:46 GMT+08:00