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APEC Leaders Get Off With 'Aspirational Goals' PDF Print E-mail

© Neena Bhandari, Inter Press Service

 ImageSYDNEY, Sep 8 (IPS) - An agreement by 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum leaders on Saturday to adopt ‘’aspirational goals’’ to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been criticised by voluntary agencies as grossly inadequate for saving the world from the effects of climate change.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in a statement read to camera at the end of the first session of the APEC leaders' summit, said there was agreement on the ‘’need for a long-term aspirational, global emissions reduction goal.’’

"Aspirational targets are vague and unenforceable. An estimated 35 million people are involved in ‘Clean Up the World’’ and they are all demonstrating their commitment to reducing GHGs through activities in their communities. APEC leaders have let them all down," said Ian Kiernan, chairman of the voluntary agency ‘Clean Up Australia’.

Greenpeace energy campaigner Catherine Fitzpatrick told newspersons that the "Sydney Declaration's non-binding aspirational goal of reducing energy intensity by at least 25 percent by 2030 would mean business as usual. The failure of this APEC to produce meaningful progress on climate change confirms that the place to do this is at the Kyoto negotiations in Bali in December."

 

APEC ‘member economies’, including the United States, Australia, Russia, Canada, Japan, China and Indonesia, are responsible for around half the world's GHG emissions.


The declaration was signed on Saturday, the first day of the two-day summit, to accommodate U.S. President George W. Bush and allow him to fly back to Washington early and attend to a crucial report on the war in Iraq.

But Bush, who had arrived on Tuesday, took the opportunity to hold meetings with such top leaders as China's President Hu Jintao, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Saturday’s declaration prepares the ground for talks in New York and Washington later this month and a United Nations meeting in Bali, Indonesia, and it does commit major polluters, including the U.S., to reducing GHGs, een if they are voluntary and non-binding. "APEC leaders have expressed strong support for Indonesia as host of the U.N. climate change meetings in Bali in December, and for the U.S. in hosting a meeting of major economies on climate change later this month,’’ Howard said.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change awarded 35 developed countries legally binding reduction targets, but developing countries were only required to pledge compliance at a later date.

Australia and the U.S., the two largest emitters of GHGs, have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. They refused to accept a reduction target, insisting that the protocol was faulty because developing countries were not obliged to bear any of the burden.

Howard had been pushing for a Sydney Declaration on climate change, energy security and clean development, which does not fix targets or prescribe any punishment for those who fail to reach their target.

The key feature of the Sydney Declaration talks about a ’’long-term aspirational goal for reducing global GHG emissions, to guide an effective post-2012 international arrangement on climate change; all economies should contribute to achieving that goal, taking into account national circumstances and allowing for a range of market-based policy measures."

"APEC will adopt regional goals to reduce energy intensity and increase forest cover, highlighting policies that support economic growth whilst reducing GHG emissions; new technologies, particularly in zero and low emissions energy sources and production, will be crucial to achieving real and lasting GHG emissions reductions,’’ the declaration said.

The declaration affirms the primary importance of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a point Hu Jintao indicated was critical to any agreement on the statement. Like China, Malaysia and the Philippines also take the Kyoto Protocol as the base position.

Climate campaigners from leading voluntary organisations like GetUp! and Avaaz have welcomed the Sydney Declaration's support for the U.N.-led climate negotiations, even as they denounced its failure to commit to binding global targets.

GetUp! executive director Brett Solomon said, "Howard's undermining of Kyoto has not only made APEC a failure, but risks his political future as well. Any agreement that does not unequivocally commit to national and international binding targets dramatically fails our region and the globe."

Global civic advocacy group Avaaz campaign director Ben Wikler said, "APEC has missed an opportunity to commit to binding climate targets for developed nations. In failing to move the world economy away from fossil fuels, APEC leaders are turning into fossils themselves."

This week Avaaz and GetUp members in more than 100 countries held events calling for climate change targets, including unfurling a 144 sq m banner at Bondi beach and over the Great Barrier Reef. The organisations delivered a 500,000-signature mammoth petition to all 21 APEC leaders on Thursday.

Oxfam, the British charity, is concerned that climate change is increasing poverty and vulnerability among the world's poorest people who are least responsible for the problem and least able to bear its effects.

More than 4 billion people -- over 60 percent of the world's population -- live in Asia and half of those live near coasts. Asia is also home to 87 percent of the world's 400 million small farms, many of which need help to cope with changing weather patterns that affect food production and livelihoods.

Oxfam policy director James Ensor commented: "If the rich country members of APEC remain wedded to voluntary reductions only, it sends a pessimistic message. The EU has already offered a 20 percent reduction by 2020, which is a good start that can yet be improved. APEC must signal the need to go there too."

About 5,000 people participated in an anti-APEC rally in central Sydney on Saturday. Organiser and spokesman of the 'Stop Bush Coalition' Alex Bainbridge said: "I think the erosion of civil liberties as demonstrated through the APEC week is yet another example of that so-called war on terror. The war on terror was never about spreading democracy."

Unprecedented security for the summit has transformed the city into a ghost town with movement limited to police, helicopters, motorcades, snipers, protestors and the 1,500-odd international and national reporters.

Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam comprise APEC, which represents half the world's trade, a third of its population and 60 percent of the output of its goods and services.

(END/2007)

 
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