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APEC Leaders Adopt Global Warming Statement

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Pacific Rim leaders have adopted a statement on climate change setting forth the "aspirational goal" of reducing climate-changing emissions, rather than setting the firm emission-reduction targets that environmentalists would have liked to see. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins reports from the Australian city of Sydney, where the APEC summit is being held.

Leaders of the 21 economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum agreed the world needs to "slow, stop, then reverse" the greenhouse gas emissions that are thought to be a major contributor to climate change.

The "Sydney Declaration," issued Saturday, also calls for APEC members to cover an additional 20 million hectares in the Pacific region with trees by the year 2020. This would be another move against climate change, as trees absorb greenhouse gases.

But the goals set out in the declaration are voluntary, not mandated targets, in keeping with APEC's policy of a consensus approach to issues. Environmentalists had called on APEC for firm reduction targets rather than non-binding goals, but many governments, including those of the U.S., Australia and China, are opposed for one reason or another.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, host of the APEC summit, nevertheless says the leaders have agreed on three "important and very specific things."

"Firstly, the need for a long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal. And that is enshrined in the Sydney Declaration," he said. "Secondly, the need for all nations, no matter what their stage of development, to contribute accordingly to their own capacities and their own circumstances to reducing greenhouse gases. Thirdly, we have agreed on specific APEC goals on energy intensity and forestry, and we've also agreed on the important role of clean coal technologies."

"Energy intensity" is a measure of energy efficiency. The declaration said members should aim for a 25 percent reduction in energy intensity by the year 2030.

The declaration agreed that climate change negotiations should continue to take place under the auspices of the United Nations. The statement also recognizes that rich nations must bear more of the financial costs in cutting emissions than developing nations.

Mr. Howard says the APEC declaration will add momentum to two major upcoming international conferences on global warming: a meeting of major economies being convened by U.S. President George Bush in Washington at the end of this month, and a United Nations-sponsored meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali in December.

The APEC members include some of the earth's biggest polluters, such as the United States, China and Australia. Altogether, the 21 member economies account for around 60 percent of global emissions.

Earlier Saturday, President Bush, Prime Minister Howard and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met privately to discuss evolving relations with Asia's two emerging giants, India and China. They agreed that they should better engage with India, which, like the U.S., Australia and Japan, is a democracy. They also agreed that they should deal "constructively" with China. Beijing, however, eyed the three-way meeting with suspicion, as a possible effort to contain China's economic, political and military expansion.

APEC leaders continue discussions on Sunday revolving around trade liberalization, reviving stalled World Trade Organization negotiations and security concerns, among other topics.

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