Sunday, September 2, 2007

Australia's PM, John Howard to look beyond Kyoto

Sian Powell
The Australian, Australia

JOHN Howard will push APEC world leaders to address the crucial issue of climate change by agreeing to a "post-Kyoto framework" with a long-term global goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Describing the APEC conference as "undeniably the most important international meeting ever to have been held in Australia", the Prime Minister moved to pre-empt criticism that the APEC leaders' meeting had failed on climate change before it had even begun.

Mr Howard initially proposed climate change as a topic for the APEC world leaders' agenda, but yesterday he conceded he had no hope of forcing APEC's 21 member nations - particularly the developing countries - to agree to binding emission targets.

Kevin Rudd has warned that APEC "had no future" if the leaders failed to agree to firm emission targets.

Mr Howard said Australia had to be realistic about climate change. "We won't reach agreement, nor do we imagine for a moment that we could reach agreement on binding targets among the member countries of APEC," he said.

But he said a framework agreement on the shape of the approach beyond the Kyoto Protocol might be possible.

"What I would like to see the APEC meeting in Sydney do is develop a consensus on a post-Kyoto international framework that attracts participation by all emitters," Mr Howard said.

Ahead of the arrival today of Chinese President Hu Jintao, and the arrival tomorrow of US President George W. Bush, Mr Howard said other crucial issues, such as trade liberalisation and security, would form key elements of the APEC agenda.

He said the APEC summit, bringing together countries that account for 56 per cent of the world economy and 40 per cent of its population, provided an "unrivalled" opportunity for bilateral exchanges.

A matrix of bilateral meetings would permit world leaders to discuss crucial issues and forestall potential regional tensions.

Mr Howard said he expected security issues to feature prominently in his bilateral discussions with the US President. Security would also be likely to feature in discussions between Mr Bush and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Mr Howard is likely to meet nearly all the leaders at bilateral talks, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose visit will be the first to Australia by a Russian or Soviet leader. The Prime Minister will also host the first heads-of-government trilateral security meeting with the US and Japan on Saturday.

The APEC summit began yesterday with meetings of officials and a cruise on Sydney Harbour for business delegates. By week's end, all 21 international leaders will be in Sydney.

"I see this as an opportunity for the modern, sophisticated Australia, through its largest city, undeniably the most beautiful big city in the world, this country to be paraded for the modern, sophisticated, tolerant, multi-racial society that it is," Mr Howard said.

The intensive security clampdown in Sydney was essential to ensure the safety of the APEC summit, and any inconvenience should be blamed on those who used violence to send a message, he said.

Twelve Greenpeace protesters were arrested in Newcastle yesterday for painting a slogan on a coal ship, and two people were detained in Sydney for taking photos. More protests were expected, and the NSW police were braced for violence.

Launching $70.7 million in funding for three new climate change measures yesterday, Mr Howard said a "naive" focus on binding emission targets would set back the development of an international framework by years.

"Our view is that we need a new flexible framework that includes a long-term global goal and encourages a wide range of natural actions by all, with ongoing review processes," he said.

"And we will seek to balance at this meeting the level of ambition and realism proposed for agreement to the leaders this week."

The draft APEC agreement suggests a 25 per cent reduction by 2030 in "energy intensity" - reducing the amount of energy consumed for each task, such as improving the fuel efficiency of cars.

Mr Rudd said yesterday that only a national greenhouse gas emission target for Australia would demonstrate the Government was serious about climate change.

"You must have one within a fixed timetable and Mr Howard has refused to embrace either of those realities," he said.

Mr Howard yesterday announced seed funding of $5million for the Asia-Pacific Network for Energy Technology, and an extra $50 million commitment for the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, as well as $15.7 million for the Asia-Pacific Forestry Skills and Capacity Building Program.

The program helps nations in the region improve the ability of their forests to capture and store carbon dioxide and helps to develop their forest management expertise.

Mr Howard also released the latest report from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, which focuses on clean technology development and forest management as measures to slow the growth in greenhouse gas emissions in the APEC region.

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