U.S.-led climate plan won't supplant Kyoto –experts
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
OSLO (Reuters) - A U.S.-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 U.S.-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 and , 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.
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 and are starting to take climate change more seriously," said David Viner, a senior climate research scientist at the University of East Anglia in .
"The danger is that this may detract from the main mission of reducing greenhouse gas emissions under Kyoto ," he said.
The and insisted that the deal would complement rather than rival Kyoto . The European Commission welcomed the plan, on condition it did not challenge Kyoto .
President Bush pulled the out of the Kyoto pact in 2001, saying it would cost 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 in November will launch government debate on widening Kyoto after 2012.
Environmentalists were skeptical 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 developing countries or on combating AIDS or malaria.