Air Pollution Control Equipment Services, Emissions

Asians and US form climate pact

28 July 2005 – Six major nations today announced a pact to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The six, Australia, China, India, South Korea and Japan and the USA, account for nearly half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In a vision statement released by the six founding nations they agreed to work together to “develop, deploy and transfer existing and emerging clean technology; meet our increased energy needs and explore ways to reduce the greenhouse intensity of our economies; build human and institutional capacity to strengthen cooperative efforts; and seek ways to engage the private sector.”

Robert Zoellick, US deputy secretary of state, who formally announced the pact at the sidelines of the Association of South-East Asian Nations meeting in Vientiane, Laos said the agreement was not in direct competition to the Kyoto protocol. “We are not detracting from Kyoto in any way at all. We are complementing it. Our goal is to complement other treaties with practical solutions to problems,” he said.

However, the US has been seeking a way to move “beyond Kyoto” and says the pact – called the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate – contrasts with “broad international commitments that lack a programme of action.”

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the new compact is non-binding, with no enforcement mechanisms. The new pact will allow signed-up countries to set their goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions individually. The emphasis of the pact will be on the development of clean energy technology. The parties claim that the accord will spur development of low carbon technologies that they intend to export to countries around the world.

Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the aim was to focus on “practical efforts to create new investment opportunities and remove barriers to help each country meet nationally designed strategies and address the long term challenge of climate change”.

Of those involved in the new deal, only Japan is a signatory to the 1997 Kyoto agreement, an international pact setting targets for industrialised countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

Both the US and Australia have refused to sign up to Kyoto, which came into effect earlier this year, citing the absence of developing countries as one of their reasons.

Australia’s foreign minister, Alexander Downer, described the partnership as building on common interest. He said it aims to address energy concerns, climate change and air pollution in practical ways that make economic sense. He announced that the first summit of the group would be held in the Australian city of Adelaide later this year.

An Australian government report released only this week warns of damage to Australia’s ecosystems, agriculture and economy all because of climate change. Although not a signatory to Kyoto, Australia’s carbon emissions are in line with the target proposed for it.

Friends of the Earth’s International Climate Campaigner Catherine Pearce said, “The role and detail behind this new pact is unclear, but it looks suspiciously as though this will be business as usual for the United States. A deal on technology, supported by voluntary measures to reduce emissions, will not address climate change. This is yet another attempt by the US and Australian administrations to undermine the efforts of the 140 countries who have signed the Kyoto Protocol.

Friends of the Earth expressed concern that this deal might focus new attention to unsustainable technologies such as nuclear and carbon capture and storage over sustainable and renewable energies.