Sydney (AFP) Sept 6, 2007
Australia's plans for a strong statement by Asia Pacific leaders on climate change fell into disarray Thursday as emerging nations led by China insisted the United Nations must retain the upper hand.
Prime Minister John Howard had put climate change at the top of the agenda for a weekend summit of Pacific Rim leaders here as a way to shape the debate on how to tackle global warming.
But Chinese President Hu Jintao said that while he welcomed the issue being discussed here, the real focus lay with the United Nations.
Other emerging countries have also baulked at Howard's proposals, backed by the United States, that would require them to do much more to curb the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for warming the planet.
At a joint press conference here with Howard, China's Hu said any statement out of Sydney must give "full expression" to the idea that a UN convention on global warming "should remain the main channel for the international effort to tackle climate change."
He also said it must acknowledge that different nations had "differentiated responsibilities" -- code for saying that curbs on emissions must be balanced with the economic development crucial in many countries to lifting millions of people out of poverty.
To which Howard replied: "I will wait for the meeting to hear the views of the other economies."
Later, following talks with President Bush, Hu said climate change "should be appropriately tackled through stronger international cooperation."
Of the world's leading polluting nations, the top two -- the United States and China -- are members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting here.
Together, APEC's 21 economies are responsible for around half the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
The position shared by the US and Australia is that the Kyoto treaty is deeply flawed as it did not commit developing nations such as China and India to the same targets on cutting emissions as industrialised economies.
With the Kyoto treaty due to expire in 2012, they want a new framework to commit all sides to making cuts.
"The gap among the members is still wide," a Japanese official said earlier after a meeting of foreign ministers.
Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said each nation should set its own targets and "when you come to setting international targets then it belongs to the UNFCCC discussions," referring to the UN Framework Convention on Climate.
That panel is due to meet again in December in Bali where it hopes to draw up a roadmap against global warming to take effect when Kyoto runs out.
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo said APEC leaders should not seek to circumvent the United Nations.
"We are very clear... that the important forum where we can resolve (and) make resolutions on climate change is the UN framework," she said in an interview with The Australian newspaper.
"Because it (the UN) includes all the countries in the world and there is some binding characteristic in the UN resolutions, whereas APEC doesn't cover all the climate makers and it is non-binding."
Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz, for her part, commented caustically that the 'E' in APEC stood for 'economy,' not 'environment'.
Japan called on its Asia-Pacific partners to stop bargaining and adopt a climate change target.
"We cannot have strategies when we only call for efforts without a target," Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said. "I believe that in the end we can reach a consensus that we should have some sort of goal."
Greenpeace campaigner Abigail Jabines said developing economies were being left to carry the burden of decades of pollution by industrialised states.
She said it was difficult for them to accept a proposal supported by Australia and the United States as they were the only two industrialised countries which have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
"They are the ones who have derailed moving forward an important direction for the rest of the world," she told AFP.
China, the world's number-two emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, did not have to agree to specific targets on reducing emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
But Japan said Beijing had agreed to a more proactive stance in a post-Kyoto framework during a meeting between Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Sydney.
"We asked the Chinese foreign minister to engage in active participation in the post-Kyoto Protocol mechanism after 2012," Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Mitsuo Sakaba told reporters.
"Mr. Yang responded very positively to this appeal by Japan."
Sakaba said that China expressed optimism at the meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific economic conference in Sydney that a UN meeting on climate change due to be held in Bali in December would produce a positive result.
"The Chinese foreign minister said that the Chinese government wishes to cooperate with Japan in order to produce a positive outcome at the Bali meeting in December," he said.
The UN will attempt to draw up a roadmap on global warming to take effect when Kyoto runs out.
Chinese leader Hu Jintao earlier expressed the opinion that the UN "should remain the main channel for the international effort to tackle climate change."
The comment was seen as a rebuff to countries such as Australia and the United States, which have rejected Kyoto and are proposing a post-2012 model that shares the burden for reducing emissions more evenly between developed and developing nations.
Source: Agence France-PresseCommunity
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