APEC rift opens over climate change debate

 @ibtimes on September 06 2007 12:58 PM

Leaders at an Asia-Pacific summit appeared deadlocked on Thursday over what their Sydney Declaration on climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions should say.

China's President Hu Jintao gave only qualified support to Australia's initiative on climate change, while some developing nations criticized Australian and U.S. moves to put climate change at the top of the agenda of the APEC gathering in Sydney.

President George W. Bush raised climate change with Hu during a bilateral in Sydney and said he would support a strong climate statement by the 21 leaders and urged Hu to do the same.

They concluded the importance of addressing this pressing problem cooperatively and responsibly ... and in a manner that did not stall or stunt economic growth, said Dan Price, Bush's deputy national security adviser for international economic development.

Bush indicated the U.S. would support a strong leaders' declaration on climate change and encouraged the Chinese leader to do likewise, as well as consider eliminating tariffs on environmental and clean energy technologies, said Price.

In a rare news conference after meeting Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Hu said he preferred the U.N. framework for handling climate change proposals.

We very much hope that this Sydney Declaration will give full expression to the position that the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change would remain the main channel for international efforts to tackle climate change, Hu said.

The declaration should also reflect U.N. principles of common but differentiated responsibilities towards lowering harmful greenhouse gas emissions, he added.

Malaysia Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz said APEC should not be dealing with emission targets at all. It should be the U.N. and the appropriate forums, she told Malaysian journalists.

Ministers from the Philippines and Indonesia have also questioned the approach.

A major meeting of top officials from around the world under the U.N. framework is set for Indonesia's Bali in December. Governments hope environment ministers will launch a two-year series of talks to find a replacement for the Kyoto agreement.

Australia, as host of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, has put climate change at the top of the agenda.

Its draft declaration calls for a new global framework that would include aspirational targets on lowering greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists say is causing the climate to change.

Australia, backed by the United States, says the Kyoto Protocol is flawed because it does not commit big polluters in the developing world, such as India and China, to the same kind of targets as industrialized nations.

Kyoto's first phase runs out in 2012 and the APEC summit is one of a growing number of efforts to find a formula that brings rich and developing countries together on climate change.

TRADE

Trade was also a major topic at APEC on Thursday, with China calling on developed members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to be more flexible in talks that have dragged on for six years but which many hope will enter their final phase this year.

We must say no to trade protectionism, eliminate trade barriers and move the Doha Round negotiation towards a comprehensive and balanced outcome at an early date, Hu said.

The talks which started in 2001 in the city of Doha have been bogged down by deep divisions over farm subsidies, tariffs and a host of other issues.

Clearly, developed countries need to do more but the rapidly-growing economies in the world need to be there as well, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said. We are committed and will continue to show flexibility and do all we can.

Australian Trade Minister Warren Truss welcomed Hu's comments, but urged Beijing to make concessions.

It will be very valuable for the talks to have a more active China around the table, Truss told reporters at APEC.

The issue of product safety saw Asia Pacific ministers agree to set up a taskforce, chaired by China and Australia, to ensure the health and safety of the region's population.

We are not targeting China, but we do expect goods that come into Australia to be safe, Truss told a news conference.

China has been grappling with a series of product recalls in a number of countries, ranging from toys to toothpaste, and Hu told Bush that Beijing took product safety very seriously.

(Additional reporting by John Ruwitch, Jalil Hamid, Matt Spetalnick and Richard Pullin)

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