US, five Asian nations announce climate change partnership

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

The United States, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia have formed a partnership aiming to cut the emissions of gasses that lead to global warming. The deal was signed after nearly a year of secret negotiations. The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate deal does not — as yet — contain targets for reducing emissions.

Environmental groups have condemned the deal, claiming that, as it is not legally binding, it is no substitute for the Kyoto Protocol, which the US and Australia refuse to sign. China and India — along with some 140 other countries — have already ratified the Kyoto agreement, but did not have to set a target for reducing gas emissions due to their status as developing countries. The Kyoto Protocol has the firm target of reducing emissions by 5.2% on 1990 levels before 2010.

Answering critics, the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said, "We are not trying to detract from Kyoto and the commitments that a number of countries have made under the Kyoto Protocol. This partnership will complement and not replace the Kyoto Protocol."

The Australian Prime Minister John Howard also said that his country should not pursue renewable technologies, but should instead concentrate in reducing emissions from the use of coal. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal, and Howard said that "Australia [should not be] unreasonably penalising herself by saying, in effect, we're going to try to move away from the use of fuels in which Australia has a natural advantage."

However part of the deal includes setting up a fund to further research cleaner energy technologies, including more efficient use of fossil fuels as well as renewable technologies, and also methods of trapping and storing greenhouse gasses rather than releasing them to the atmosphere. It is hoped that this will aid China, India and other developing countries to adopt cleaner energy solutions.

The details will be worked out at a meeting between the six countries in November, shortly before the next UN summit on climate change.

The countries believe the deal is fairer and more effective than the Kyoto Protocol. However, a Greenpeace spokesperson said, "The suggested scheme is, unlike Kyoto, a voluntary scheme, and all evidence shows that voluntary schemes do not work. Skulking around making secretive, selective deals will not accomplish a reduction in emissions ."

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that global temperatures could rise by 1.4C to as much as 5.8C by 2100. The US and China are the two biggest producers of carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) in the world.