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APEC Nations Agree on Climate Change, But Differ on Solution

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

The leaders of the 21 economies that make up the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization will enter their annual two-day summit this weekend in Sydney divided over the top issue on their agenda - climate change. As VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins reports from Sydney, the rift has split rich nations, such as the United States and Australia, from developing member economies such as China and India.

Officials of the APEC economies agree that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of the day. They are just divided on how to deal with it.

Some of the industrialized economies, led by host Australia and the United States, want to use the APEC summit as a forum to forge a new framework outside the United Nations-backed Kyoto Protocol. That protocol sets specific goals for reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions that are thought to be a major contributor to global warming.

Environmental campaigners, like Abigail Jabines of Greenpeace, say Australia and the U.S. should ratify the Kyoto Protocol if they are serious about addressing climate change.

"If John Howard and George Bush are sincere in addressing climate change, they should ratify Kyoto Protocol and embrace real solutions such as renewable energy and energy efficiency and set legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To John Howard and George Bush - don't run away from Kyoto Protocol, just do it," said Jabines.

But Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says that instead of government-mandated solutions, the world should look to the private sector for cost-effective and realistic approaches to emission reductions.

"We've certainly affirmed the importance of market-based solutions to address energy security and achieving sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol excludes developing nations from emission targets. The U.S. and Australia say this is unfair.

They want APEC to endorse a new approach to climate change, which would require developing nations - including China, the world's second-biggest polluter after the U.S. - to join in the reduction efforts.

Chinese President Hu Jintao in a speech Thursday acknowledged the urgency of dealing with climate change, but insisted it should be dealt with within the framework of the protocol - which requires little of China.

Mark Chambers is chairman of the APEC Business Advisory Council, which advises the APEC leaders. He says dealing with climate change will ultimately require rich nations to help poorer ones.

"If you look at the math, you come to the conclusion that there is going to have to be an immense transfer of wealth over an indeterminate period of time from the developed world to the developing world to make a possible solution to the issue of climate change. That transfer of wealth, the mechanism to deal with it, has not yet been even outlined in embryo," said Chambers.

APEC leaders are also expected to issue a statement aimed at reviving the stalled World Trade Organization negotiations. Rich and poor nations are divided over cuts in barriers to trade in agriculture, industrial goods and services.

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