US announces Asia-Pacific climate agreement
The United States announced a largely symbolic agreement with Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea that targets emissions of greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming, reported AFP.
The initiative, dubbed the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, will not replace the 1999 Kyoto Protocol that Washington has repudiated, said a senior aide to US President George W. Bush, Jim Connaughton.
"This new results-oriented partnership will allow our nations to develop and accelerate deployment of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies," Bush said in a statement released by the White House.
"I have directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Energy Sam Bodman to meet with their counterparts this fall to carry forward our new partnership and provide direction for our joint work," Bush said.
The plan, which does not set precise new emissions targets or timetables, was to be unveiled formally by Deputy US Secretary of State Robert Zoellick at 0330 GMT Thursday at a regional summit in Laos, the White House said.
"It will not replace the Kyoto Protocol, the Kyoto Protocol remains in place," Connaughton, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters in a conference call.
The accord, the fruit of five months of high-level diplomacy, does not envision any enforcement mechanisms to ensure that the partners are doing all they can to cut pollution, he said.
The commitments under the deal "don't require enforcement, what they require is investment" from the private sector, as well as sharing technologies that increase energy efficiency and cut pollution, said Connaughton.
The agreement, unlike the Kyoto Protocol, does not set a specific goal for curbing greenhouse gas emissions by a certain date but aims to accelerate current goals set by the countries individually, he said.
"We're hopeful that it will reduce the rate of growth of greenhouse gases in each of our countries," said Connaughton. "What we're not looking at is a one-size-fits-all, top-down mandate."
He said the countries involved accounted for about 50 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere and are blamed for global warming, seen as one of the world's greatest environmental dangers.
One goal is to battle pollution in a way that does not seriously hamper economic growth -- one of the objections Bush raised to the Kyoto Protocol when he announced he would not submit the treaty to the US Senate for ratification.
"Even climate skeptics can embrace this agenda, and even the most ardent climate proponents (can agree) that access to clean and affordable energy is a fundamental human need," said Connaughton.
Connaughton laid out a series of areas where the accord aims to build on existing cooperation: Reducing methane emissions; promoting "clean coal" use; expanding civilian nuclear power programs; promoting energy efficiency; and increased reliance on sources of energy other than fossil fuels.
Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell said earlier that "Australia is, and I reassure the Australian people, working on something that is more effective post-Kyoto."
The UN's Kyoto Protocol requires industrialised countries to trim emissions of carbon dioxide, the byproduct of burning oil, gas and coal, by a deadline of 2010.
One of the US arguments against the present Kyoto format is that it does not require big developing countries such as China and India to make targeted emissions cuts -- an absence that Bush says is unfair and illogical.
But developing countries say historical responsibility for global warming lies with nations that industrialised first, and primarily with the United States, which by itself accounts for a quarter of all global greenhouse-gas pollution.