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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 September 2007, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Howard to press new climate deal
Australian PM John Howard
Mr Howard wants voluntary targets on greenhouse gases
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has urged fellow Asian leaders to find a new way forward on climate change.

Speaking ahead of an Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) meeting, Mr Howard said flexible targets should be adopted to cut emissions.

Australia and the US are the only industrialised nations not to sign the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that capping greenhouse gases would harm growth.

Mr Howard's stance has been criticised by environmentalists.

World leaders - including US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin - are starting to gather for the Apec meeting in Sydney to discuss climate change, free trade and regional security.

"We need a new flexible framework that includes a long-term global goal and encourages a wide range of national actions by all," Mr Howard told a press conference ahead of the summit.

Climate question

Global leaders are widely expected to sign a statement about climate change during the summit, but Mr Howard added it was "very unlikely" they would agree on emissions targets.

Critics have warned that any Apec declaration that fails to include targets on greenhouse gases is simply hot air, with Greenpeace warning that "to return to aspirational targets would throw away 12 years of progress".

On Sunday, officials from the 21 countries attending the talks agreed the scope that discussions would take on key issues at the Apec summit.

Trade and foreign ministers will conduct further negotiations later this week, before the leaders take up the issues.

Security for the event has been extremely tight with the Australian government spending A$169m (68m, $138m) on security measures.

A concrete and steel fence has been built across the centre of Sydney to protect the 21 leaders attending the meeting from thousands of protesters expected to attend.

More than 5,000 police and troops have also been deployed, with police warning that they expect violent protests to target the event which ends on 8-9 September.

So far, 12 Greenpeace activists have been arrested after they painted a protest slogan on the hull of a coal ship north of Sydney.

A steel barrier will divide Sydney during the summit

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