Asia-Pacific Countries Join U.S., Australia to Control Climate

VIENTAINE, Laos, July 28, 2005 (ENS) - Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and United States have founded a partnership to address energy security, climate change and air pollution issues. The six countries combined represent more than half of the world's economy, population and energy use, and produce half of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Announcing their partnership today at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' annual ministerial meetings in Vientaine, the six countries issued a joint Vision Statement that pledges to "develop, deploy and transfer existing and emerging clean technology."

Calling their new team the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, the partners also promised to "explore ways to reduce the greenhouse intensity of our economies; build human and institutional capacity to strengthen cooperative efforts; and seek ways to engage the private sector."

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said the new initiative is "a complement, not an alternative," to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.


U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick (Photo courtesy U.S. State Department)
Each of the six partners has a differerent status under the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5.2 percent by 2012.

Japan has ratified the treaty and is legally bound by its provisions. The United States and Australia have declined to ratify, while the treaty does not apply binding emissions limits to China, India and South Korea.

Still, these developing countries are required to implement policies and measures to address climate change, taking into account their specific circumstances and with the support of developed countries.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said, "We are not trying to detract from Kyoto and the commitments that a number of countries have made under the Kyoto Protocol."


Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
"From Australia's point of view our argument is essentially two fold," he said. "First of all, climate change is a serious problem and it needs serious solutions. The serious solutions first of all involve all countries, not just some countries, and we must ensure that developing and developed countries are all involved in addressing these issues. And secondly, in the end, the key to solving these problems is going to be technology."

On behalf of the United States, Zoellick said, "to give you a sense of our own commitment to this overall process, the United States under the Bush administration has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 0.3 percent during the first three years. And just to give you a set of contrasts, carbon dioxide emissions in all the other G8 countries increased during this period, for example the EU 15 by 3.6 percent and the EU 25 by 3.4 percent."

"So we are committed to trying to address this effort," said Zoellick. "We just think that there is a better way to do it than the requirements of the Kyoto treaty. But we respect those who have pledged to those requirements and we understand their interest in trying to achieve them."

Areas for collaboration may include energy efficiency, clean coal, integrated gasification combined cycle, liquefied natural gas, carbon capture and storage, combined heat and power, methane capture and use, civilian nuclear power, geothermal, rural/village energy systems, advanced transportation, building and home construction and operation, bioenergy, agriculture and forestry, hydropower, wind power, solar power, and other renewables.

Downer called the partnership "innovative and a fresh new development for the environment, for energy, security and for economic development in the region."

"We all recognize the Asia Pacific region's increasing energy needs," Downer said. "We all recognize the fundamental importance of economic development, and we all recognize the importance of addressing environmental issues, such as climate change and air pollution. The core element of the partnership is policy integration."


Liu Yongxing, Chinese ambassador to Laos, signed the partnership agreement on behalf of China. (Photo courtesy Government of China)
Liu Yongxing, Chinese ambassador to Laos, said,"Climate change is not only an environmental issue but also a development issue. The essence of addressing climate change is to achieve sustainable development. The key lies in innovation and the transfer of technology information and concrete international cooperation."

Developing countries such as India will utilize this partnership to bridge the enormous gap between large populations that have no electricity and the high-tech world of nanotechnology and nuclear fusion.

Raoul Inderjit Singh, Union Minister of State for External Affairs of India, said, "Despite progress at many levels, even today 43 percent of our households still do not have access to electricity. With its growing economy India's energy needs are going to increase in the future. We are, however, also conscious of the need to develop in a balanced manner and have therefore taken a number of steps at the National level to achieve energy efficiency."

"I am particularly pleased," said Singh, "that new technologies such as nano technologies, advanced biotechnology, next generation nuclear fusion and fusion technology have been included for collaboration between the partners."

Shinichi Nishimiya, deputy director general of the Asian-ASEAN Department, Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented Japan, which is a Party to the Kyoto Protocol.

"We understand and we believe that this new Partnership is something that is complementary to the Kyoto Protocol and efforts under the Kyoto Protocol, so therefore by tackling various matters under the new partnership would bring about a synergy effect with the Kyoto Protocol efforts as well in dealing with the global warming issue," he said.

Japan has gone through various shocks, said Nishimiya, "the oil crisis; the very, very bad environmental degradation a few decades ago; and through those experiences has developed wonderful technology in terms of conserving energy as well as environment friendly technology."


Ban Ki Moon, foreign minister of the Republic of Korea (Photo courtesy Government of Korea)
Ban Ki Moon, foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, said his country is placing particular emphasis on technical cooperation with the other partner countries. "This Partnership can help address the concerns on climate change and achieve sustainable development at the same time by focusing on technology development and capacity building efforts in such areas as energy security and air pollution reduction," he said.

Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme welcomed the plan and stressed that it will not interfere with the Kyoto Protocol.

“It is important to mention that this new initiative is not a substitute for the Kyoto Protocol, its legally binding emission reductions and its various flexible mechanisms including emission trading and the Clean Development Mechanism," said Toepfer. "We also urgently need more investment in climate-vulnerable developing countries to help them adapt to the climate change that is already underway."

“Rapidly developing economies like China and India need new and more efficient energy technologies if they are to lift their populations out of poverty without compromising the environment or destabilizing the global economy,” he said.

“Countries like the United States are now equally aware that being dependent on fossil fuels is and will be an increasing burden in the future. They now recogniae that a more diversified fuel supply that includes technologies like cleaner coal and renewables alongside greater energy efficiency makes economic as well as environmental sense,” said Toepfer.

No budget has yet been established for the partnership's activities. Downer said it will be "a true partnership over a long time frame, with each partner bringing different value to the table. No one has, at this stage, sought to pre-determine the contribution members will make."

Zoellick said the United States devotes about, over US$5 billion dollars a year to climate change issues and a large part of that is technology and development. He said it is important "for us to learn how to be able to expand the use of this technology," and to do that, "we have to listen to our developing country colleagues about some of their particular problems."

Zoellick spent the four years 2001 to 2004 as U.S. Trade Representative, where he says he learned the importance of being "able to build on mutual interests of developed and developing countries together if one is going to take on global challenges."

"India and China in particular both have huge development challenges of which energy is a critical component. So part of the nature of this partnership is not just for us to roll out technology," Zoellick said. "It is from them we get a better understanding of some of the challenges they face, some of their development plans and try to see how we can connect that together in an effective network."

Discussions are already underway on the practical elements, including a work plan and a wide range of technology areas for possible collaboration.

Australia will host the inaugural ministerial meeting of the partnership in Adelaide in November. Foreign, environment and energy ministers from each member country will be invited to build on the principles in the Vision Statement.