Delegates from six of the world's major producers of greenhouse gases say their countries will tackle gas emissions with cleaner technology instead of the limitations and deadlines of the Kyoto Protocol. The six say the Kyoto method would hinder economic growth.
The inaugural meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate in Sydney brought together six countries at the heart of the debate over global warming.
Delegates from the United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, have joined those from Australia, the world's biggest coal exporter, and the energy-hungry nations of China, India, South Korea and Japan.
They say that burning fossil fuels, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, will remain crucial to their economies. In a communique at the end of the meeting, the six countries said they would not cut back on the use of coal, oil and gas, as demanded by the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
Instead, the delegates announced a new plan to promote renewable energy sources and cleaner ways to use coal. Australia said it would contribute $75 million to the plan, and the U.S. said it would seek more than $50 million.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard told the conference that environmental concerns should not come before economic priorities.
"The idea that we can address climate change matters successfully at the expense of economic growth is not only unrealistic, but it is also unacceptable to the population of Australia - which I represent - but I'm sure [also] unacceptable to the populations of all the other countries that are represented around this table," he said.
Government officials were joined at the meeting by executives of some of the world's major energy and mining firms. A primary aim of the partnership is to convince industry to take the lead in developing and installing cleaner energy methods.
This is a very different approach from the Kyoto Protocol, which sets limits on emissions and deadlines for reductions. China, India, Japan and South Korea have all ratified the protocol, but the United States and Australia have not.
Environmentalists are not happy with the new plan. They say it focuses too heavily on untried technologies, and not enough on proven renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.
The Greenpeace organization said in a statement that the U.S. and Australia are leading toward "climate catastrophe rather than a path to clean energy and energy efficiency."
Environmentalists and many scientists believe the Kyoto agreement is the best way to address climate change.
The conference participants say the new partnership will provide a more effective solution than the protocol, embracing technology such as geo-sequestration, which involves burying carbon pollution.