Environment News Service (ENS)

APEC Leaders Set Measurable Energy Efficiency Goal


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

SYDNEY, Australia, September 8, 2007 (ENS) - Asia-Pacific leaders agreed on Saturday to adopt a 'long-term aspirational goal' to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region in support of the United Nations' global efforts, announced Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Under the Sydney Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development, the goals are to reduce energy intensity by at least 25 percent by 2030 from the 2005 level, and to increase forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares of all types of forests by 2020.

The non-binding numerical targets indicate that APEC leaders wish to throw their political muscle behind an international push to avert the worst consequences of a warming planet.

This is the first year that leaders from the 21 APEC member economies have included climate change discussions in their annual summit.

The leaders of the world's two largest greenhouse gas emitters - U.S. President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao - said Thursday that they support international cooperation to deal with global warming.

'We talked about climate change and our desire to work together on climate change,' Bush said at a news conference after their meeting.

Hu said, 'We believe that the issue of climate change bears on the welfare of the whole humanity and sustainable development of the whole world. And this issue should be appropriately tackled through stronger international cooperation.'

Bush continued to promote his policy of using technology to limit greenhouse gas emissions and made no mention of an international agreement reached in Vienna last week to limit emissions by 25 to 40 percent in the period after the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

In a briefing Thursday, White House spokesperson Dana Perino said, 'President Bush indicated the U.S. intended to support a strong leaders' declaration on climate change and encouraged President Hu to do likewise. President Bush also invited President Hu to consider eliminating tariffs on environmental and clean energy technologies.'

Perino said President Hu took that suggestion under advisement without directly responding to it.

Speaking to the APEC Business Leaders Summit Thursday, Bush was very clear. 'Here's my strategy,' he said. 'In order for there to be effective climate change policy, India and China need to be a part of the process. In order to get them in the process they have to be included in setting international goals. And the process is beginning here at APEC.'

Russia is a member of the Kyoto Protocol, yet President Vladimir Putin said after his private meeting with Bush, 'We also discussed the environmental issues, in particular in connection with the forthcoming APEC summit. I should tell you that we have very close positions on these matters.'

President Putin and Prime Minister Howard announced Friday that they signed a nuclear cooperation agreement to allow the supply of Australian uranium for use in Russia's expanding civil nuclear power industry.

Howard said that nuclear power 'as a zero-emissions technology - has much to contribute to addressing global climate change.'

The Australian Conservation Foundation warned that the 'safeguards relied on in the Australia-Russia uranium deal,' are 'paper promises and cannot guarantee that Australian yellowcake will not fuel future Chernobyls and nuclear weapons.'

'Russia's nuclear facilities are old and under performing,' said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney.

'Civil society watchdogs that monitor the nuclear industry in the West – like the media, environment groups and unions – are under-resourced and under pressure in Russia,' he said.

Although Russia is a signatory to the United Nations' nuclear non-proliferation treaty it is actively breaching the treaty’s obligations,' Sweeney claimed, adding, 'Russia recently changed its domestic laws so new nuclear reactors can be built without facing environmental impact assessments.'

'Safeguards cannot guarantee that Australian uranium will not end up fuelling a nuclear accident or a nuclear weapon,' Sweeney said. 'The only thing that can be guaranteed is that it will end up as long lived radioactive waste.'

Before the summit closes on Sunday, the APEC leaders are expected to agree to create the Asia-Pacific Network for Energy Technology, aimed at achieving technology breakthroughs in clean fossil fuel and renewable energy.

All parties appear to agree that the United Nations is the proper framework for negotiation of the next international climate change treaty. Negotiations to shape that treaty will continue at the annual UN climate conference being held this year in Bali, Indonesia in December.

President Bush is hosting the first of a series of climate meetings with major economies later this month to which many APEC nations, including China, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Canada, Russia and South Korea are invited. Dan Price, U.S. deputy national security advisor for economic affairs, told reporters, these meetings are 'intended to make a contribution to the negotiations and discussions that will take place under the U.N. framework.'

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said after his meeting with the Chinese president, 'Australia and China have reaffirmed our commitment to the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, and have agreed to continue developing low-emissions energy technologies. This underscores China's growing need for cleaner forms of power generation.'

'Australia will commit a further $20 million to our joint work on clean coal technologies,' said Howard. 'We have already funded a carbon capture project in Beijing, and a combined cycle demonstration power plant in Australia. This recognizes our role as a reliable and responsible major energy supplier, and China's continued dependence on coal, alongside other energy sources, for its economic development.'

'President Hu and I have also agreed to continue our other work on climate change, particularly coal mine methane recovery, energy efficiency, climate change science and agriculture,' Howard said. 'We have agreed on the role that the safe and secure use of nuclear power can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other energy sources such as geothermal and solar thermal energy.'

'We have also noted today the potentially large role of forestry in addressing climate change,' Howard said.' Australia and China are both strong supporters of the Global Initiative on Forests and Climate.

China has proposed an Asia-Pacific Network on Sustainable Forest Rehabilitation and Sustainable Management, which Australia supports.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will introduce his government's initiative to create a forum of eight countries that have tropical rain forests, to President Bush at a meeting scheduled here on Saturday as part of efforts to overcome global warming.

'President Yudhoyono would introduce the initiative at a 'Forestry Eight' meeting of countries that have tropical rain forests to be held in New York,' said presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal, according to the official Antara news agency.

Climate change will be high on the agenda of the meeting, as Indonesia has a great interest in addressing the issue of climate change with regard to the global warming threat, while the U.S. is one of the countries initiating efforts to address the issue,' said Djalal.

Djala said the major economies meeting to be held in Washington, DC on September 27 'reflected the U.S. attention to the global warming threat.'

Friday, President Bush met with leaders from seven Southeast Asian economies participating in the APEC meetings who are also members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN.

President Bush announced, and the ASEAN leaders welcomed, the creation of the position of United States Ambassador to ASEAN.

Since 2005, under an enhanced partnership with ASEAN, the United States has supported environmental programs and improved wildlife conservation in Southeast Asia, provided assistance in response to natural disasters, and supported an expert on pandemic preparedness and avian influenza at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.

The Democratic Right to Protest at Issue

An estimated 10,000 anti-APEC protesters have been denied permission to march to the edge of police lines during their rally in Sydney today. The Stop Bush Coalition had applied to march through the APEC security zone but police blocked this route after successfully applying for a court order.

Police approved today's march, which began with a rally at Town Hall, then headed along Park Street to Hyde Park. Eleven people have been arrested.

But the New South Wales Supreme Court granted Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione's application for an order preventing up to 20,000 people from marching to the corner of George and King streets.

Justice Michael Adams qualified his decision with statements on people's right to free speech and assembly. 'The powers given to police are very unusual in Australia, I think indeed unprecedented,' he said of special powers granted under an APEC Police Powers law enacted last month.

'There's no question that there would be many people in the community, and I'm not talking about most, but many would resent the extension of such powers to the police, even for such a limited period of time,' said Justice Adams.

'There might be many who would be tempted to test the police ... in this kind of situation and indeed perhaps to provoke the police into action ... for the reason of obtaining publicity and putting into debate ... the suitability of giving police these powers in a democracy like ours,' he said. At this hour, thousands have gathered at Sydney Town Hall. The majority are peaceful and say they will not allow themselves to be provoked by what they say are a group of 'neo-nazis' in the area.

Hundreds of police on foot, in buses and on bikes surround the area and say they are prepared for violence.

In few minutes Thursday, a satirical skit by television comedians simulating an arriving APEC leader pierced the $250 million APEC security blanket in Sydney. With three black cars, two motorbikes and men in black running alongside, the fake motorcade breezed through two police security checkpoints, arriving outside the Intercontinental Hotel where President Bush is staying, before they were discovered.

In world's largest export coal port of Newcastle 160 kilometers from Sydney, the Local Court Thursday overturned excessive bail conditions set on 11 Greenpeacers arrested during a climate change protest the previous day. The protesters painted anti-coal slogans on a ship.

The judge found that many of the bail conditions restricted the activists' fundamental right to protest.

'The absurd APEC security blitz is denying Australians their basic democratic rights to protest,' said Greenpeace campaigner John Hepburn.

'Protest and peaceful direct action are a fundamental part of our democracy,' Hepburn said. 'It is the only effective counterbalance to the vested interests of the coal industry who are effectively writing climate change policy in Australia.'

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