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  Yahoo News 9 Sep 07
APEC climate call is just hot air, say activists
by Neil Sands

Yahoo News 8 Sep 07
APEC leaders forge climate change pact
By Rohan Sullivan, Associated Pres

Yahoo News 7 Sep 07
Asia-Pacific leaders to make climate change call
by Martin Abbugao

Straits Times 8 Sep 07
Apec nations draft climate statement
Preliminary accord sets aspirational goal, not binding commitment

Channel NewsAsia 8 Sep 07
Asia Pacific leaders issue climate change call

BBC 7 Sep 07
Apec 'muddies the climate waters'
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News website

If you thought that climate change was just an occasional staging post on the eternal global tour of international diplomacy, think so no more.

Within the last few months the climate circus has stopped at the G8 in Heiligendamm, the UN climate convention (UNFCCC) in Vienna, and UN HQ in New York (twice) - not to mention triple dips into the prediction pot of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC).

Over the next few months, the pace hots up. After Apec - the Asia-Pacific Economic Co- operation forum - there is the Gleneagles clean energy dialogue in Berlin, UN HQ (again ), the Washington White House, and finally, in December, the UN climate convention's annual summit, this time amidst Bali's lush beauty.

Did I miss a few out? I hope so.

It would be nice to leave room for some content in this article among the dizzy succession of geographical name-checks and the welter of organisational initials, which is beginning to resemble the alphabet soup of heavyweight boxing.

"There's a complex picture emerging," observes John Ashton, the British government's international climate change envoy.

"I would draw an analogy with other international negotiations, for example on arms control. What you saw was that when it became clear that this was something the world needed to do something about, you saw a proliferation of different conversations in various fora.

"That's what we're seeing now with climate change."

Simple appeal

So is the complexity a good or a bad thing?

Bad, it appears, to some, notably the governments of Malaysia, China and the Philippines which opposed Australian and US moves to get a climate resolution from the Sydney Apec meeting.

"It is unfortunate that people who are talking about climate change like the US are not even members of the Kyoto Protocol," Malaysia's trade minister Rafidah Aziz said during the preliminary skirmishes. "If you want to talk about climate change, please join in with the rest of the global community to make commitments... there's no point talking outside of the [Kyoto Protocol] forum."

In other words, keep it simple, Sydney.

Intense debate

The Apec formula, as originally proposed by Australian premier John Howard with Washington's blessing, envisaged developed and developing nations alike signing up to goals - not on reducing greenhouse gas emissions however, but on improving "energy intensity".

Brought first into the political arena by President Bush, the intensity concept is basically a measure of how efficiently your economy uses energy - the ratio of wealth created to energy expended.

It is a concept that environmental groups find deeply troubling.

"Even with the proposed target (of a 25% improvement in intensity by 2030), we would see a net increase in emissions from the region," comments Tony Mohr, climate change campaigner from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

"Intensity improves, but the economy grows as well. And that's the problem with intensity targets."

In the run-up to the Apec summit, the Australian government's Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (Abare) produced a report forecasting that under business as usual, emissions from Apec nations would grow by 130% between now and 2050.

With the deployment of technologies such as renewables, nuclear, clean coal and energy efficiency, Abare calculated it would be feasible to reduce that emissions figure by 49 %. So hang on, let's do the maths... 49% of 230%... subtract the original 100%... and what Abare is projecting, what Mr Howard and Mr Bush believe acceptable, is a rise in greenhouse gas emissions of about 15% by 2050.

And the rise is that small only if all these clean technologies are developed and rolled out smoothly across the region, which even Abare admits is a path strewn with social and economic hurdles - it could have added technical ones, too.

The rise could be much bigger.

Writing about this Apec meeting has given me a distinct feeling of deja vu; and I know why.

It is because when I covered the inaugural ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate in Sydney some 18 months ago - and apologies for thickening the alphabet soup still further - exactly the same arguments appeared.

Then, as now, we had major Asian economies at the table. Then, as now, the Howard and Bush governments argued that technology and voluntary deals could bring emissions down. Then, as now, we had an Abare report showing that when they talked of bringing emissions down, they actually meant allowing emissions to rise.

The climate world is certainly on twin tracks when it comes to the meaning of apparently simple words.

Revenue stream

There is a green sales pitch for Mr Howard's Apec push, though, and it is this.

Under Kyoto, developing countries do not have any firm targets for reducing emissions. At least under the proposed Apec agreement, they would have a target for something.

Being cynical for a moment, perhaps that is why China, Malaysia and the rest want to stick to the Kyoto track, and focus on developing a successor agreement when the protocol's existing targets expire in 2012.

Kyoto brings no targets for developing nations; but it does bring revenue, through the Clean Development Mechanism (for clean technologies, usually) and through funds to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change.

A "Kyoto-2" treaty, the focus of the Vienna talks, would provide an even bigger pot.

"I think there was a general concern (in Vienna) that funds for adaptation need to rise quite dramatically, and a recognition that the mechanisms in place to fund adaptation have been insufficient," said Angela Ledford-Anderson, vice-president for climate programmes at the National Environmental Trust in Washington DC.

The details of any Kyoto-2 treaty are still in embryonic form, and will in all probability have barely progressed to the foetal stage before the big UN climate forum in Bali at the end of the year, to which Vienna was the official prelude.

If you will permit a mixed liquids metaphor, the alphabet soup appears to be muddying the waters.

"There was a reluctance among many parties to go into too much detail and a reluctance to commit until the events of the next few months, the various conversations in different fora, have taken place," observes Ms Ledford-Anderson.

But on the biggest issue - a new set of emissions targets for when the current set expires in 2012 - something of a consensus did emerge at Vienna, to many observers' surprise.

The aspiration that developed countries should aim to cut their emissions by 25-40% by 2020 is far from a deal, but it already looks very different from the Apec/Asia-Pacific Partnership/Bush vision.

Ambition mission

So how should we judge all these different fora, philosophies and processes?

"We should keep our eyes on the big picture, and the big picture is the level of ambition," suggests John Ashton, emphasising that the Vienna targets derive from the scientific necessity to cut emissions as determined by the IPCC.

"At the moment, (the US and Australian initiatives) are not ambitious enough - but they're not unique in that, the problem we all face is how we bridge the gap between where we are now and where we need to get."

There is no doubt that climate politics is entering a complex phase.

No longer is it the case that nations are either for Kyoto or against it; Japan, for example, is for Kyoto, and yet also for the Asia-Pacific Partnership which comes with a very different level of ambition.

And no longer are the arguments just about cutting emissions. Funds for adaptation, clean technology rollout, and financing mechanisms are considered by many of the players, certainly by the developing world's superpowers. Energy security, leverage, avoided deforestation, sequestration... the list is almost as long as Angela Merkel's climate travel itinerary.

But amidst these swirling, evanescent mists it is possible to discern two familiar philosophical pillars.

In one, governments commit to common policies based on the science which, rightly or wrongly, they have endorsed through their membership of the IPCC, and which the Stern Review has declared affordable.

In the other, they subject business-as-usual to only slight voluntary curtailments that will not distort its basic high-carbon shape.

Both have high-profile, powerful backers. The myriad conversations, processes and journeys of the next four months should tell us much about which is likely to prove dominant.

Channel NewsAsia 8 Sep 07
Asia Pacific leaders issue climate change call

SYDNEY - Asia Pacific leaders meeting at a summit in Sydney issued a statement on climate change Saturday that calls for action to fight global warming, setting " aspirational" goals but no firm commitments.

Unveiling the statement, Australian Prime Minister John Howard called it "a very important milestone towards a sensible international agreement" bringing in both rich and poor nations. It followed intense wrangling between developed and emerging nations over the shape of a treaty to replace the landmark Kyoto Protocol on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for warming the Earth's atmosphere.

Their statement notably includes an aim of reducing energy intensity by at least 25 percent by the year 2030.

Howard had made climate change a cornerstone of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC) summit here, which has drawn the leaders of 21 Pacific rim economies including China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

He said they had they agreed on "the need for a long-term aspirational, global emissions reduction, goal." They were also agreed on "the need for all nations, no matter what their stage of development, to contribute according to their own capacity and their own circumstances to reducing greenhouse gases."

That was a nod to emerging nations which have argued that any curbs on key industries must be balanced with the need to ensure economic growth to raise living standards and lift millions of people out of poverty.

The agreement, which also seeks to increase forest cover right across the APEC region, also emphasises the primacy of the United Nations in leading the fight against global warming. - AFP/ch

Straits Times 8 Sep 07
Apec nations draft climate statement
Preliminary accord sets aspirational goal, not binding commitment

SYDNEY - ASIA-PACIFIC countries have agreed on a preliminary statement on climate change after intense wrangling between rich and emerging nations.

The document, which is not binding, contains what is said to be an 'aspirational' target of reducing energy intensity but also stresses the primacy of the United Nations in the fight against climate change.

Mr Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of the 10-member Asean, confirmed that an agreement had been reached among officials. Drafted by experts of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec), the six- page text was now ready to be handed to Apec leaders meeting at this weekend's summit in Sydney.

To strike the accord, negotiators agreed to set a target to reduce 'energy intensity', or the amount of energy needed to produce economic growth, said Mr Salman Al- Farisi, an Indonesian official involved in the talks.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has previously called for reducing energy intensity by 25 per cent by 2030 - a goal a South-east Asian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said was included in the draft.

In return for the reduction target, Mr Al-Farisi said, the statement would call for 'common but differentiated responsibilities'. This means richer nations will have to bear more of the financial and other costs in cutting the carbon emissions which contribute to global warming.

Australia had touted a tough statement on climate change, which would draw in emerging nations to make cuts in greenhouse gases as a cornerstone of the gathering.

But it triggered a fierce debate here, with emerging nations led by China saying they did not want to be bound by any commitments.

They said all attention should be focused on a UN climate change conference in Bali in December, which aims to lay the groundwork for a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol on curbing emissions.

'We cannot pre-judge the results of the Bali meeting,' the official said. 'The UNFCCC is like a Bible,' he added, referring to the meeting - the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The bickering was all part of a wider tussle to shape the framework of a successor to Kyoto, which was signed under the auspices of the UN in 1997 but runs out in 2012.

What also irked environmental activists was that Australia and the United States are the only two industrialised nations to have refused to ratify that landmark accord.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer had appeared downbeat earlier yesterday as the 'very difficult' negotiations went down to the wire.

'If we can get a good declaration out of this, that would be a very great achievement,' he said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao spearheaded the opposition, insisting on Thursday that the UN must take the lead in agreeing to a new treaty.

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo, too, said yesterday that the proper way ahead was via the Bali conference. While it was good to discuss the issue at Apec, she said, 'at the end of the day, the final resolution should really be in the context of the UN'.

Yahoo News 7 Sep 07
Asia-Pacific leaders to make climate change call
by Martin Abbugao

Leaders of key world nations -- including its three biggest polluters -- picked over a statement on climate change Saturday that urges action to curb global warming but makes no firm commitments.

A draft statement agreed by senior officials after intense wrangling behind the scenes proposes "aspirational" goals to reduce energy intensity and boost efforts to curb carbon emissions blamed for warming the atmosphere.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, hosting the summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Sydney, had touted a tough climate change call as a cornerstone of the annual gathering that ends Sunday.

But the statement ran into trouble with emerging nations, and the text, as seen by AFP, waters down his original proposals. It was expected to be formally approved later Saturday to take account of the planned early departure of US President George W. Bush from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer admitted discussions had been difficult because "diplomacy is reached with nuance and complexity." "We've put a lot of emphasis on climate change being a centrepiece of this meeting and that has been embraced by all the delegations," he told reporters Saturday.

The document: -- encourages member states to "work toward achieving an aspirational goal" of reducing energy intensity by at least 25 percent by 2030; -- stresses the primacy of the United Nations, not APEC, as the key forum against global warming.

A UN convention will meet in the Indonesian resort of Bali in December to open the way for a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol on curbing greenhouse gas emissions; -- underlines that different countries must be allowed to draw up their own strategies.

Led by China, emerging nations say curbs on key industries must be balanced with the need to bring millions of people out of grinding poverty; -- sets an "aspirational" goal of increasing forest cover in the APEC zone by at least 20 million hectares (nearly 50 million acres) by 2020.

It is a far cry from a speech Howard made in June when he said the summit offered an "historic opportunity" to fight climate change and could be "one of the most important international gatherings of leaders" on the subject since 1992.

A senior Southeast Asian official closely involved in the negotiations said the statement was formulated to put the stress on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is organising the Bali conference.

"We cannot pre-judge the results of the Bali meeting," the official added. "The UNFCCC is like a Bible."

The bickering was all part of the wider tussle to shape the framework of a successor to Kyoto, which was signed under the auspices of the United Nations in 1997 but runs out in 2012.

Australia, backed by the United States, said Kyoto was basically flawed as it did not commit emerging nations, notably China and India with their booming economies, to make cuts in emissions, and that any replacement treaty had to close the loophole.

Bush said here earlier this week that for any fresh accord to be effective, "China needs to be at the table."

Developing nations said they did not want to be bound to specific targets, while what also irked activists was that Australia and the United States were the only two industrialised economies which refused to ratify Kyoto.

"In diplomacy you cannot be 100 percent satisfied, it is a product of the negotiations," Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said, acknowledging the compromises necessary to agree a joint statement.

Greenpeace energy campaigner Catherine Fitzpatrick dismissed the statement as almost meaningless. "Without binding targets for developed countries the statement is not much more than a political stunt," she told AFP.

Yahoo News 8 Sep 07
APEC leaders forge climate change pact
By Rohan Sullivan, Associated Press Writer

Pacific Rim leaders on Saturday said the world needs to "slow, stop and then reverse" greenhouse gas emissions, and adopted modest goals to curb global warming.

Thousands of demonstrators rallied to demand stronger action.

Some experts and activists dismissed as ineffective the program adopted by the presidents of the United States, China, Russia and leaders of other Asia-Pacific economies at an annual summit which did not set goals for cutting countries' output of polluting gases.

But it sets a precedent because it applies to all of the group's mix of rich and developing members, and could influence upcoming U.N. negotiations on climate change.

"The world needs to slow, stop and then reverse the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions," the 21 leaders said in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum's declaration on climate change.

Leaders "charted a new international consensus for the region and the world," the summit host, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, said outside the Sydney Opera House, where the leaders adopted the declaration on the first of two days of talks.

A dozen blocks away and on the other side of a 10-foot metal fence fortified by concrete barriers and a police cordon, about 3,000 protesters held a colorful, mostly peaceful march and rally.

Causes included protests against President Bush, the Iraq war and ending poverty.

Kerry Nettle, a senator from Australia's Greens party, demanded that the Pacific Rim leaders take "real action" on global warming, drawing cheers. One protester wore a T-shirt that read "Climate Change is not Cool." Another was dressed a polar bear.

Police, who had warned of potential violence and been given special search powers by the local government, had only minor scuffles with demonstrators, arresting 17 protesters. Two officers were injured, police said.

The APEC climate change program brings together some of the world's powerhouse economies and some of its biggest polluters.

As such, it could influence upcoming negotiations before the end of the year in Washington, New York and Indonesia to devise a successor to the U.N.-backed Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

"If you have APEC, especially the largest emitters the U.S., China, Russia, Japan sign up to an agreement like that, it would be hard to ignore at the global level," said Malcolm Cook of Sydney-based think-tank the Lowy Institute.

The program's centerpiece is a goal to reduce "energy intensity" the amount of energy needed to produce a dollar of gross domestic product 25 percent by 2030.

The only other concrete goal was to increase forest cover in the region by at least 50 million acres by 2020 enough to absorb about 11 percent of the greenhouse gases the world emitted in 2004, the final statement said.

Both are nonbinding targets in keeping with APEC's voluntary, consensus-based approach. Environmental groups and some climate change experts said the agreement was weak.

"In practical terms, that will mean almost nothing," said Frank Jotzo, an Australian National University expert in climate change economics. "It is very unambitious."

The energy intensity target sets a rate that most economies are naturally meeting as they get richer and shift out of power-intensive manufacturing, he said.

"If the APEC statement is the platform for future action on climate change, then the world is in trouble," said Catherine Fitzpatrick, a Greenpeace energy campaigner.

The targets, a demand of Australia and the U.S., apply to all countries.

Under Kyoto, China, India and other developing countries were largely exempted from emissions targets applied to industrial countries.

At APEC, developing countries got richer members to reaffirm that they should bear most of the costs in solving global warming.

"In diplomacy, we cannot be 100 percent satisfied because it is a product of negotiations, and in the end we have to live with it," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda, whose government had earlier opposed the target.

Bush left the summit early, on Saturday night, after holding a series of bilateral meetings on the sidelines that reinforced ties with close allies in the leaders of Australia and Japan but were less comfortable with Russia, China and South Korea.

Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk, Meraiah Foley and Jim Gomez contributed to this report.

Yahoo News 9 Sep 07
APEC climate call is just hot air, say activists
by Neil Sands

Environmental experts dismissed an agreement from Asia Pacific leaders setting "aspirational" goals on climate change as an empty gesture that may actually undermine efforts to halt global warming.

Climate change topped the agenda at this weekend's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Sydney, its 21 members agreeing to long-term goals but failing to set binding targets in areas such as greenhouse gas emissions.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard described it as "a very important milestone" toward a future global agreement that drew in both rich and poor countries.

Activists were not impressed, talking of a political stunt to promote an agreement that lacked any teeth.

"Without legally binding targets for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions the Sydney Declaration is meaningless and irrelevant in addressing climate change," Greenpeace Southeast Asia energy campaigner Abigail Jabines said.

"It is a political stunt. Developing nations of the Asia Pacific region cannot afford to accept lip service instead of action."

Jabines accused US President George W. Bush and summit host Howard of trying to undermine the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which both leaders have refused to ratify.

She said Bush and Howard were attempting to frame a new global agreement on climate change that did not include the binding emissions targets on developed nations included in the Kyoto deal, which is due to expire in 2012.

"If John Howard and George Bush are sincere in addressing climate change, they should ratify Kyoto Protocol and embrace real solutions," she said.

Professor Hugh Outhred, an energy specialist at the University of New South Wales, said general statements such as at Sydney allowed political leaders to appear to be addressing climate change while doing little.

"The main practical implication could be a delay in doing anything," he said. "They gain time, they are trying to do as little as possible."

The Sydney Declaration says the world has to "slow, stop and then reverse" the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. It also encourages APEC members to reduce energy intensity by 25 percent by 2030, a goal Greenpeace said most countries would reach anyway.

Australian former diplomat Richard Broinowski dismissed Howard's suggestion that this agreement drew in rich and poor nations for the first time.

"That hasn't happened at all, Kyoto is still the main element for that," said Brionowski, Canberra's former ambassador to South Korea, Vietnam and Mexico. "This is a sideshow. It's not a breakthrough at all."

The declaration reaffirmed the United Nations as the major forum for talks on climate change, a clause pushed by China and developing nations determined not to allow Australia and the United States to hijack the process.

While Chinese President Hu Jintao signed up to the statement, he pointedly told fully developed nations that they had to live up to targets laid out in the Kyoto Protocol.

He also reiterated support for the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," code for meaning that emerging countries should have less stringent emission targets than developed nations.

Julie-Anne Richards, from the Climate Action Network Australia, said that environmentalists were looking to a UN-brokered meeting in Bali in December for progress on climate change because the APEC statement meant nothing.

"The world doesn't have time for voluntary action, what we need is real action, real targets and real timetables," she said.

There was biting criticism too from the Los Angeles Times, which said the "aspirational" Sydney statement was political theatre designed to boost Howard's green credentials before the conservative leader faces an election later this year.

"For aspirational, read: voluntary, vague and useless for anything but padding a fading prime minister's environmental resume," it said in an online editorial.


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