The Heat Is Online

US-Led Voluntary Effort Seen as Marginal

U.S. Initiative on Climate Met with Cautious Praise, Skepticism in Asia, Europe


The Associated Press, July 29, 2005

 

VIENTIANE, Laos  A U.S.-led plan to develop clean energy technologies met with surprise in Asia and concern among critics that it may be a ploy to undo the Kyoto pact, the binding accord on controlling global warming that Washington refuses to sign.

The initiative -- the result of yearlong secret talks -- brings together the U.S., Australia, China, India, South Korea and last-minute partner Japan with the aim of inventing and selling technologies ranging from "clean coal" and wind power to next-generation nuclear fission as a means of reducing pollution and addressing climate concerns.

"The pact sounds more like a dirty coal deal," said the environmental group Greenpeace.

"However, whatever this deal includes in its final form, it cannot and should not be used by the U.S. and Australia to escape domestic emissions reductions," said a Greenpeace statement.

Details of the pact were released Thursday at an Asia-Pacific security meeting in Laos attended by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick among others.

The two ministers joined officials from their partner countries to announce it again at the Laos conference, insisting the pact was not "detracting" from the Kyoto Protocol but bolstering it.

"We view this as a complement, not an alternative" to the Kyoto treaty, said. Zoellick. "The Kyoto Protocol could do with a bit of complementarities with other initiatives," added Downer.

Details of the "New Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate" remained sketchy, and Downer told a news conference that a ministerial meeting would be held in November in Adelaide, Australia to the plan's vision into action.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa his government had not yet digested the news.

"To be honest it's too early at this time to come out with a statement on that," he said, echoing remarks by other Asian governments. The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana, also in Laos, said he first heard about the pact from Zoellick earlier Thursday.

Critics noted that the partnership is nonbinding and sets no targets for signatories to meet in reducing pollution, talking only about grandiose ideas.

On the other hand, the Kyoto Protocol, signed by 140 countries including China, India, Japan and South Korea, is legally binding and requires countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by certain percentage.

"Together with the U.S., Australia is staging the biggest diversionary maneuver attempted since the start of international talks on climate change," Germany's Die Tageszeitung daily said in an editorial.

The newspaper said the other signatories to the U.S. plan "shouldn't allow themselves to be led astray by the ideologically motivated ignorance of the Kyoto opponents."

Emissions of carbon dioxide and five other gases are believed to be behind rising global temperatures that many scientists say are disrupting weather patterns.

Average global temperatures rose about 1 degree in the 20th century, and scientists say that has contributed to the thawing of the permafrost, rising ocean levels and extreme weather.

The United States, which accounts for one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, and Australia have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, saying it would harm their economies by raising energy prices, and cost five million jobs in the U.S. alone.

Their other objection is that pact mandates emission reductions only among industrial countries and not developing countries like India and China -- second only to the U.S. in emissions.

Pierre Pettigrew, foreign minister of Kyoto signatory Canada, said the new initiative at least shows that the U.S. and Australia acknowledge the problem. But now they should produce results, he said.

Source: Associated Press

The 5-Minute Briefing: America's 'Kyoto' pact with Asia

The Independent (U.K.), July 29, 2005

What is the significance of the new pact on climate change announced yesterday, linking the US and Australia with four leading Asian countries - China, India, Japan and South Korea?

The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate aims to use new technology to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) from power stations, without the necessity of the mandatory reduction targets set by the current international climate treaty, the Kyoto protocol, which the US and Australia have refused to ratify, claiming it would harm their economies.

What does the new treaty involve?

The signatories, led by the United States - the world's biggest polluter and emitter of CO2 - say that they will cut back their emissions of greenhouse gases while still allowing their economies to grow by the development of new technology for low-carbon energy generation, such as clean-coal-burning and carbon capture and storage (the trapping of CO2 from power station exhausts and storing it deep in the ground or under the seabed). This technology is being actively developed and is expected to come on stream in the next five years.

By how much will the six countries cut back their emissions under the new pact?

No one knows. There will be no mandatory targets.

What is the relationship of the new pact with the Kyoto protocol?

It is an alternative, offering a way forward diametrically opposed to that of Kyoto: the approach of business-as-usual and the technological fix, in place of "belt-tightening", the cutting-back on energy use which Kyoto demands.

Will it actually undermine the Kyoto treaty, as some environmentalists claim?

Their fear concerns what is known as the second commitment period of Kyoto, which begins in 2012 - the period in which the developing countries that have ratified the treaty, such as India and China, may be expected to take on emissions reductions targets of their own. At present, in the first commitment period, only the industrialised countries have targets - which was one of the principal US objections to the treaty. The fear is that the new pact may offer the developing countries an excuse not to come on board in Kyoto stage 2 - they can say that they are doing something to tackle the climate problem, and do not need mandatory targets.

But some analysts think that nations such as China and India do not need excuses, and will be governed in their actions by a hard-headed assessment of risks and costs. They will come into stage 2 if they think it worthwhile; if they don't think it is worthwhile, they will stay out anyway, and the current pact will make no difference.

What view do other governments take of the pact?

Most governments, including Britain's, are giving it a cautious welcome, and waiting to see what it actually leads to.

What is the significance of the new pact on climate change announced yesterday, linking the US and Australia with four leading Asian countries - China, India, Japan and South Korea?

The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate aims to use new technology to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) from power stations, without the necessity of the mandatory reduction targets set by the current international climate treaty, the Kyoto protocol, which the US and Australia have refused to ratify, claiming it would harm their economies.

What does the new treaty involve?

The signatories, led by the United States - the world's biggest polluter and emitter of CO2 - say that they will cut back their emissions of greenhouse gases while still allowing their economies to grow by the development of new technology for low-carbon energy generation, such as clean-coal-burning and carbon capture and storage (the trapping of CO2 from power station exhausts and storing it deep in the ground or under the seabed). This technology is being actively developed and is expected to come on stream in the next five years.

By how much will the six countries cut back their emissions under the new pact?

No one knows. There will be no mandatory targets.

What is the relationship of the new pact with the Kyoto protocol?

It is an alternative, offering a way forward diametrically opposed to that of Kyoto: the approach of business-as-usual and the technological fix, in place of "belt-tightening", the cutting-back on energy use which Kyoto demands.

Will it actually undermine the Kyoto treaty, as some environmentalists claim?

Their fear concerns what is known as the second commitment period of Kyoto, which begins in 2012 - the period in which the developing countries that have ratified the treaty, such as India and China, may be expected to take on emissions reductions targets of their own. At present, in the first commitment period, only the industrialised countries have targets - which was one of the principal US objections to the treaty. The fear is that the new pact may offer the developing countries an excuse not to come on board in Kyoto stage 2 - they can say that they are doing something to tackle the climate problem, and do not need mandatory targets.

But some analysts think that nations such as China and India do not need excuses, and will be governed in their actions by a hard-headed assessment of risks and costs. They will come into stage 2 if they think it worthwhile; if they don't think it is worthwhile, they will stay out anyway, and the current pact will make no difference.

What view do other governments take of the pact?

Most governments, including Britain's, are giving it a cautious welcome, and waiting to see what it actually leads to.

 

US -Led Climate Plan Won't Supplant Kyoto - Experts

Planetark.org, July 29, 2005

 

 

OSLO - A US-led Asian-Pacific accord on spreading technology to fight global warming has hazy targets and is unlikely to end up supplanting the far broader U.N. Kyoto protocol, experts said on Thursday.

 

Unlike the 152-nation Kyoto pact, the six-country accord between the United States, Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea sets no binding goals for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels blamed for rising temperatures.

 

Most experts said the pact was unlikely to undermine Kyoto, partly because it was limited and echoed a 1992 U.N. Climate Convention that most nations concluded was inadequate to curb a build-up of greenhouse gases caused by human activity.

 

"The world tried (non-binding goals)...in 1992 and not much happened. This is more or less repeating that effort, but with more vague goals and fewer countries," said Jorund Buen, a partner at Point Carbon analysis group.

 

The US-led deal "has nothing to do with other, much bigger initiatives, which are of a global nature", said Javier Solana, foreign policy chief for the European Union which is among Kyoto's strongest backers.

 

The United States, the world's biggest polluter, and Australia are the only main developed nations outside the 1997 Kyoto pact, designed to limit a build-up of heat-trapping gases that many scientists fear will trigger more storms, droughts and flooding and cause sea levels to rise.

 

However, Kyoto excludes developing nations such as China and India, home to a third of humanity, from a first period of targets to 2012. Both have ratified Kyoto and promised to take part in talks to widen the pact beyond 2012.

 

KYOTO CHALLENGE

 

Some experts were unsure whether to hail the six-nation deal, building on existing agreements on sharing more efficient energy technology, or to see it as an attempt by Washington and Canberra to snipe at Kyoto.

 

"It could be a sign that the United States and Australia are starting to take climate change more seriously," said David Viner, a senior climate research scientist at the University of East Anglia in Britain.

 

"The danger is that this may detract from the main mission of reducing greenhouse gas emissions under Kyoto," he said.

 

The United States and Australia insisted that the deal would complement rather than rival Kyoto. The European Commission welcomed the plan, on condition it did not challenge Kyoto.

 

President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the Kyoto pact in 2001, saying it would cost US jobs and was unfair for excluding developing nations until 2012.

 

However, comparisons with Kyoto were inevitable, especially after Australian Prime Minister John Howard said: "The fairness and effectiveness of this proposal will be superior to the Kyoto protocol."

The timing of the announcement of the six-nation accord is sensitive because a U.N. meeting in Canada in November will launch government debate on widening Kyoto after 2012.

 

Environmentalists were sceptical about the accords, focusing on less-polluting technologies, clean coal, energy efficiency and burying greenhouse gases.

 

"It doesn't address the wider question that two of the richest countries in the world are doing nothing to reduce emissions," said Steve Sawyer, climate policy director at Greenpeace.

 

"This is just a technology transfer accord," said Jennifer Morgan, climate change expert of the WWF conservation group of the new accord. "If this is taking the issue seriously, the planet is in serious danger."

However, Buen at Point Carbon in Oslo said the new accord could help negotiations on renewing Kyoto.

 

"For post-2012 it could have a positive influence because it indicates there is some willingness to move forward on climate by key developing countries as well as by non-signatories (of Kyoto)," he said.

Kyoto binds developing nations to cutting emissions of greenhouse gases -- from factories, cars and power plants -- by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

 

Many opponents of Kyoto say it will cost billions of dollars a year that could be better spent on reducing poverty in develping countries or on combating AIDS or malaria.

 

 

EU Commission Welcomes Six-Nation Climate Pact

Planetark.org, July 29, 2005

 

BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Thursday hailed a six-nation climate change pact unveiled by the United States and Australia, saying it would boost efforts to fight global warming.

 

"We welcome very much this agreement," Commission environment spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich told journalists.

"It underlines our growing awareness of the seriousness of climate change and the need to address it."

 

She stressed that the countries in the pact said the agreement supported, but did not replace ,the Kyoto Protocol.

 

Some environmental activists have said the pact is a US attempt to create a distraction ahead of U.N. talks in November, which will focus on how to widen Kyoto to include developing countries after 2012.

 

The European Union is considered a leader in fighting climate change and was instrumental in getting Russia to sign the Kyoto agreement, which enabled the pact to go into force.

 

Helfferich said clean technology was not enough to fight global warming but was helpful nonetheless.

 

"We are also encouraged by this agreement because it is in line with our own efforts," she said.

 

The countries that have joined the new agreement are the United States, Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea.