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No APEC deal on climate change targets: Howard

A woman walks past a banner of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney, 03 September 2007. Threats of terrorism and violent protests overshadowed an agenda dedicated to climate change and trade as meetings kicked off ahead of a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in "Fortress Sydney." Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Sept 2, 2007
Asia-Pacific countries will not agree on binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at a major summit this week, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Sunday.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum -- which includes the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China -- will outline tactics for the post-Kyoto fight against climate change at the September 8-9 summit.

Howard, who had said the issue would top the APEC agenda in Sydney, was forced to go on the defensive after a leaked draft of a declaration by leaders of the forum's 21 member economies revealed no targets would be agreed.

"We must be realistic about what can be achieved on climate change. We won't reach agreement, nor do we imagine for a moment that we could reach agreement, on binding targets amongst the member countries of APEC," he told reporters.

The main international treaty on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012 and the APEC summit is one of a series of meetings at which plans for a post-Kyoto agreement are being discussed.

But the leaked draft declaration has already been dismissed by experts and activists as mere hot air.

The draft says APEC members "agree that a long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal will be a key component of the post-2012 framework," but sets no enforceable targets.

Greenpeace, which posted the draft on its website, said it did not go far enough.

"In 1995 the world community agreed that voluntary, aspirational targets were ineffective and, as such, negotiated the Kyoto Protocol which includes binding emission reduction commitments," the environmental watchdog said.

"To return to aspirational targets would throw away 12 years of progress."

Howard said any APEC framework agreement on a post-Kyoto approach had to be based on the fact that each member economy had different needs.

"We do not believe that continuing down the Kyoto path is going to provide a solution to the problem," he told a news conference.

"What I would like to see the APEC meeting in Sydney do is develop a consensus on a post-Kyoto international framework that attracts participation by all emitters.

"And if we just have a singular focus at this meeting -- as some are naively urging -- on binding targets, that will just postpone the development of that agreement by years."

Australia and the United States are the only two countries in the world to have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, complaining that it could hurt their economies.

The APEC meeting is just one of three international conferences this month that will tackle a problem which scientists warn could lead to increasingly dangerous storms, heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

It will be followed in two weeks by a special UN meeting called by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a few days after that by a conference in Washington called by President George W. Bush.

Bush has invited 15 nations and the European Union, which together account for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, to set long-term goals on cutting outputs.

In December, the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol will meet on the Indonesian resort island of Bali to plan strategies for the post-Kyoto world.

APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.

The forum's economies account for 56 percent of the world's GDP and cover 41 percent of the world's population.

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