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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 11:19 GMT
Private firms 'can help climate'
By Richard Black
Environment Correspondent, BBC News website, Sydney

Samuel Bodman (R) and Ian Macfarlane (L)
Bodman (R) and Macfarlane (L) believe industry will deliver the solutions
The private sector will solve the problem of climate change, according to the US Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman.

He told the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate that the job of governments was to help businesses take up clean technologies.

Critics say the talks are a way to avoid signing up to binding targets like those in the Kyoto Protocol.

The Partnership aims to develop ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through clean technology.

The meeting here in Sydney is its first ministerial gathering and is seen as a rival to the Kyoto process.

Neither the US nor Australia is taking responsibility for the climate change they have caused or will cause in the future
Erwin Jackson, Australian Conservation Foundation

The Partnership's guiding principle is that technology alone, developed and exported to the growing economies of Asia, can reduce emissions without the need for binding targets as contained in the Kyoto treaty.

But many observers doubt that companies or governments will adopt these technologies if they cost more than conventional systems.

The Partnership does not envisage financial incentives such as the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme, which rewards companies for reducing their carbon output.

Global citizens

Asked at a news conference why business would adopt more expensive technologies in the absence of financial incentives, Mr Bodman replied: "I believe that the people who run the private sector, who run these companies - they too have children, they too have grandchildren, they too live and breathe in the world.

"And they would like things dealt with effectively; and that's what this is all about."

Diagram of a coal gasification plant

The purpose of this meeting, he said, was for governments to listen to the concerns of the private sector and ask what prevented companies from moving to already available clean technologies.

"Those of us in government believe it is the job of government to create an environment such that the private sector can really do its work.

"It's really going to be the private sector, the companies... that are ultimately going to be the solvers of this problem."

His view was endorsed by Australian industry minister Ian Macfarlane, who told reporters: "The real emissions are coming from industry.

"And it's industry which needs to embrace the technology, it's industry which needs to be in a partnership with government to involve this new technology, to take up its corporate environmental community responsibility, to set about ensuring that in 50 years' time our emissions aren't 50% higher than now."

Setting the rules

Comments from the two ministers have increased suspicion among environmental groups that the Partnership is basically a business alliance designed to help western energy companies into burgeoning Asian markets.

Nuclear is to me an obvious requirement on a going-forward basis
Samuel Bodman, US Energy Secretary
"Governments have to set the rules by which private companies operate," said Erwin Jackson of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

"They do so in health and safety, in other fields - there is no reason why they should not do so in climate change," he told the BBC News website.

"Neither the US nor Australia is taking responsibility for the climate change they have caused or will cause in the future."

The Asia-Pacific Partnership brings together Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

It aims to guarantee economic growth and energy security, as well as bringing down greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental groups contend it will have little impact without financial incentives, and may persuade other nations away from the Kyoto Protocol process.

In principle, the Asia-Pacific pact includes all "clean" technologies, though the focus is firmly on coal, as all six nations are either major producers or consumers.

Samuel Bodman also lauded the role of nuclear power. "Nuclear is to me an obvious requirement on a going-forward basis," he said.

"In the US, we have had no new nuclear stations built for 30 years; hopefully we can take care of business at home before we start preaching to others."

The meeting concludes on Thursday, and Australian ministers have downplayed expectations of a dramatic outcome.

US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on climate change

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