Brussels welcomes six-nation climate pact
By Amy Kazmin in Vientiane, Fiona Harvey in London and Daniel Dombey in Brussels
The agreement on climate change struck on Thursday by the and several Asian countries was given a cautious welcome by other governments.
The Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, announced in Vientiane on Thursday, calls on the US, China, India, South Korea, Japan and Australia to co-operate on technologies to combat climate change. However, the deal mirrors a number of agreements already in place between these countries and the , and sets no firm targets on greenhouse gas emissions, in contrast to the Kyoto protocol on climate change supported by the European Union and Japan.
The European Commission welcomed the deal, but insisted it could not replace the Kyoto accord. A spokeswoman for Stavros Dimas, environment commissioner, said: “We very much welcome this agreement, which underlines the growing awareness of the seriousness of climate change and the need to address it . . . [but] it cannot substitute for the emission cuts we need.”
The partnership, which originated with the , will formally begin in November, when the foreign, energy and environment ministers of the six countries will gather in Australia for talks on a “charter”. The technologies involved will include “clean” coal, liquefied natural gas, methane capture and use, hydro-electricity, wind and solar power, and more distant technologies such as hydrogen, next generation nuclear fission, and fusion. These lessen the need to burn fossil fuels, which produce carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that trap heat on earth and cause climate change.
Robert Zoellick, deputy secretary of state, said the initiative would focus on establishing research links and market mechanisms to ease the access of developing countries, starting with India and China, to these technologies.
Speaking on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific security forum in Laos, he said: “We are not detracting from Kyoto at all – we are complementing it. [The partnership] opens up the possibilities for developing, deploying and transferring cleaner, more efficient technologies.”
Japan was said to be initially reluctant to get involved with an initiative seen as taking the spotlight from the Kyoto protocol, but Shinichi Nishimiya, a Foreign Ministry official, said Tokyo saw a “synergy” between the two efforts.
“This is an improvement, this is progress, but I am still waiting for the meat,” said Pierre Pettigrew, foreign minister of Canada, a party to Kyoto .
Many observers saw the partnership as an opening shot by the US ahead of what are expected to be tense negotiations later this year on the future of the Kyoto protocol. The UN-brokered treaty binds developed nations to greenhouse gas emission reductions, but places no such requirements on developing countries, and its provisions expire in 2012. The US and Australia are the only developed countries to have rejected the treaty.
The next round of negotiations on the treaty will take place in Montreal in November, and attention is expected to focus on the role of developing countries - especially China, India and Brazil, whose emissions are increasing in pace with their rapid economic growth.
Lord May, president of the UK’s national science academy, said: “. The developed countries involved with this agreement must not be tempted to use it as an excuse to avoid tackling their own emissions.”