Developing nations win concession on climate change

Developing nations win concession on climate change

By Jim Gomez/AP

Sydney: Developing countries won a big concession from Australia and the United States on global warming, an official said on 7 September as a weekend deadline loomed to reach a unified position on the thorny issue among Pacific Rim leaders.

Demonstrations targeting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit of 21 leaders began to build, meanwhile, as jumbo jets carrying the region’s leaders kept a busy arrival timetable.

More than 200 people gathered at a city park less than a kilometre from shell-shaped summit venue the Sydney Opera House, waving placards and shouting slogans on a grab-bag of issues from the environment to the US-led war in Iraq.

Officials had declared 7 September a public holiday in Sydney to help ease congestion caused by leader’s motorcades and security fences around venues and top hotels. Demonstrations were organized for Friday and Saturday, with police warning of the potential for violence.

At preliminary meetings for the summit, poorer countries _ led by China _ succeeded in getting any APEC statement in climate change to recognize the United Nations as the main forum to debate the problem, said Salman Al-Farisi, one of Indonesia’s experts at the climate meetings.

“They agreed to put that in the declaration" that leaders are expected to adopt at their weekend summit, Al-Farisi told The Associated Press.

A bigger sticking point _ whether the statement should include targets for dealing with greenhouse gases _ remained unresolved, he said.

Australia, with US backing, is seeking a climate change statement that includes targets. Specifics of the Australian proposal were sketchy but officials said they included goals to reduce “energy intensity" _ the amount of energy needed to produce economic growth.

The approach is an attempt to skirt a contentious part of the UN-backed Kyoto Protocol, which set targets for industrialized nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases but largely exempted developing ones.

The US and Australia, which have refused to ratify Kyoto, want APEC leaders to embrace a new approach to climate change that would require China _ one of the world’s biggest polluters _ and other developing countries to commit to greenhouse gas reduction targets.

But developing nations are against binding targets imposed by others.

A fourth round of talks among APEC officials was due to be held on the topic later Friday, ahead of the leaders’ meeting Saturday and Sunday. They were rushing to finish the statement before US President George W. Bush leave the summit early, after Saturday’s session.

Some countries have expressed frustration that by Friday Australia had still not provided delegates with a draft text of the statement, so they can work on tweaking the wording, though Al-Farisi said the mood of Thursday’s deliberations was more upbeat than the earlier sessions.

If the experts fail to reach agreement on the wording of a statement, the issue will be handed to the leaders, who must hammer out some sort of consensus or risk embarrassing Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who put global warming at the top of the meeting’s agenda.

President Hu Jintao on Thursday said he did not oppose an APEC statement on climate change, but it should recognize that rich nations should bear more responsibility for reducing global pollution than poorer ones.

Voicing the push from the other side, Bush said in a Friday speech to an APEC-related gathering that the forum’s discussions on a “practical set of priorities" on climate change were important in shaping the global warming debate.

In his wide-ranging speech, Bush also urged Asia-Pacific nations to keep up the fight against terrorism and help achieve a breakthrough in the Doha round of global trade talks.

“The United States is committed to seizing this opportunity _ and we need partners in this region to help lead the effort," he said.

Bush prodded Russia and China to honor democratic principles, and appealed for international pressure against Myanmar’s military junta.

He also mistakenly referred to APEC as “OPEC," the oil cartel.

On the sidelines of the conference, Australia’s Howard and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an agreement to export Australian uranium to Russia for power stations. They promised safeguards to ensure the atomic material would be used only for peaceful purposes.