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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 January 2006, 11:10 GMT
Pact 'will not reduce emissions'
By Richard Black
Environment Correspondent, BBC News website, Sydney

Asia Pacific climate conference in Sydney, 12 Jan
The meeting was the first time the group has come together
A new Asia-Pacific pact aimed at tackling climate change will not reduce carbon emissions.

That is the conclusion of a report from an Australian government agency released during the pact's first ministerial meeting.

The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate will develop clean energy technologies and spread them to developing countries.

Critics say it is a business deal and a diversion from the Kyoto Protocol.

At the conclusion of the two-day meeting here, Australia and the US each pledged more than US$50m for research and development under the Partnership.

Eight "task forces" will look at various areas of research and development including renewables, clean coal, and reducing demand from energy-intensive industries such as aluminium smelting.

Growth secured

In a final communiqué, member nations emphasised their goal of securing continued economic growth while at the same time trying to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"The partnership aims to mobilise domestic and foreign investment into clean and low-emission technology, by fostering the best possible enabling environments," the statement said.

Until pollution becomes more expensive than the alternative, there is no incentive for firms to clean their act up and reduce their profits
Craig Frater, London, UK

But it added that reductions in greenhouse gases must be achieved without hindering economic growth.

"We recognised that fossil fuels underpin our economies, and will be an enduring reality for our lifetimes and beyond," the statement said.

The six nations in the Partnership - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the US - are all major producers or consumers of coal.

Together they account for about half of the global total of greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions to double

In the closing news conference, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the Partnership will have an impact on emissions.

"The partnership efforts in technology and best practice could lead to partners' emissions being 30% less in 2050 than would have otherwise been the case.

"This, if it is effective, could make a very substantial contribution to mitigating the greenhouse problem."

Diagram of a coal gasification plant

Mr Downer's figures came from a new report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (Abare), launched at the meeting.

The report concludes that although Partnership activities may lessen the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, they will not produce a fall.

Even if the Partnership succeeds in rolling out low-pollution technologies across member states, it projects a doubling of global emissions by 2050.

Environmental activists greeted the communiqué with scepticism.

"In my whole business career, I have never seen a more misleading public statement," commented the CEO of WWF Australia Greg Bourne, formerly a senior executive with the oil and gas company BP.

"If the statements made today become a reality, this will lock us into a four degree [Celsius] rise in global average temperatures, when two degrees is considered extremely dangerous."

The eight task forces will begin work immediately following the meeting; a second ministerial gathering is planned for early in 2007.

Richard Black reports on the outcome of the talks

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