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  Channel NewsAsia 8 Sep 07
APEC leaders commit to tackle climate change

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: For the first time, leaders of the 21 APEC economies have committed to firmer goals to tackle climate change, a key focus at this year's summit.

Among the goals are to improve energy efficiency within the region by at least 25 percent in 2030, from levels in 2005.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who attended the APEC Leaders' Retreat, said backing for the Sydney Declaration on climate change signalled an aspirational goal.

But it will not be the last word on the issue. Keeping to tradition, Asia-Pacific leaders posed for official photographs, decked out in this year's APEC national outfit - an all-weather riding coat. And aptly so, as environmental issues dominated their discussions.

The leaders agreed to enhance energy efficiency in support of UN efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

During their closed-door meeting, PM Lee said there is no silver bullet in addressing climate change and that the key lies in reducing the amount of carbon in the air by shifting to clean energy and conserving forests.

Under the Sydney Declaration, the leaders will aim to increase forest areas in the region by 20 million hectares by 2020. This could potentially store some 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to about 11 percent of annual global emissions.

The Declaration reaffirms the UN climate convention as the platform for fighting global warming and sets the stage for the convention's annual summit in Bali in December. Environmental concerns will also top the agenda of ASEAN and East Asia summits in Singapore in November.

"It's a big issue, because if we don't act early to ameliorate the effects of climate change, the consequences can be very dire," said Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo.

"Small island countries, for sure, many of them are going to be submerged, including Singapore. So we've got to do what we can," he added. "We got to take practical approach and work with market forces. We can't be sure that it will be one scenario or another. But we've got to take the risk management approach," said Mr Yeo.

Apart from tackling emerging issues, PM Lee also held separate meetings with Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont as well as New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. - CNA/ir


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