Finance ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) have decided at a meeting in Australia that new action is needed to combat climate change.  The ministerial conference was held in preparation for an APEC leaders' summit in Sydney next month.  From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

The finance ministers of APEC issued a statement Friday saying the international community has to do more to address global warming.

The ministers, who just completed a meeting on eastern Australia's Sunshine Coast, say the world must go beyond the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change.  That treaty legally binds the 146 signatories to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But a number of countries, including APEC members Australia and the United States, have refused to ratify the treaty. They argue it is unfair because it does not include emerging economies.

The Australian government has also long argued that economic growth must not be sacrificed in favor of the environment. 

But Australian Finance Minister Peter Costello says that with proper planning by APEC, economic growth and environmental protection can exist side by side.

"The economy of the Asia-Pacific region will not grow unless it can be assured of energy, and the demands of energy are going to be enormous," he said.  "The demands on energy will put at risk environmental outcomes if they are not properly managed, and for the first time at an APEC meeting, we put these issues on the agenda and we linked them."

The ministers concluded that a new framework is needed that will address the challenge of climate change while maintaining economic growth.

This week's meeting was a prelude to a formal leaders' summit in early September, to be held in Australia's biggest city, Sydney. 

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum accounts for roughly half the world's trade.

More than 250 delegates from 21 APEC member economies attended this week's five-day forum.  The members also include China, Japan, and a host of smaller economies from Asia and Latin America.