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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 July 2005, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
New climate plan 'to rival Kyoto'
By Richard Black
BBC Environment Correspondent

A power station near Sydney, Getty Images
Details of the new pact have so far remained under wraps
The US and Australia are developing a new pact on climate change with a group of Asian countries, believed to include China, India and South Korea.

Australia's Environment Minister Ian Campbell said that details would be announced "in the very near future".

That could be as soon as Thursday, in a speech due to be given by US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

It is believed the pact will focus on technology transfer from industrialised nations to the developing world.

Australia and the United States are the two major industrialised countries which have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, claiming it would damage their economies.

Both countries also criticise the protocol on the grounds that it does not include major developing countries such as China and India.

Something better

At a news conference in the West Australian capital Perth on Wednesday, Minister Campbell told reporters that Kyoto could not achieve the level of greenhouse gas reductions which the majority of climate scientists believed was necessary if climate change was to be kept within manageable bounds.

We're going to have a 40% increase in emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, and the world needs a 50% reduction
Ian Campbell, Australia's Environment Minister
"We're going to have a 40% increase in emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, and the world needs a 50% reduction," he said.

"We've got to find something that works better."

Details of the new pact have so far remained under wraps; but there are indications that it will focus on technology transfer, probably with an emphasis on cleaner ways of burning coal.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the four biggest producers of coal in the world are China, the United States, India and Australia; so it is unlikely that these nations would come up with an agreement to reduce the production and use of coal.

The final plan of action from this month's meeting of G8 leaders made clear that fossil fuel power stations are going to be a dominant source of electricity for decades to come, and reducing their emissions would be a priority.

And Ian Campbell gave strong hints of an emphasis on technology.

"We need to expand the energy the world consumes and reduce the emissions," he said in Perth.

"That's going to need new technologies; it's going to need the development of new technologies and the deployment of them within developing countries - we need to engage developing countries, we need to develop technologies which can be developed in Australia and exported around the world."

One of the Bush Administration's initiatives, called FutureGen, aims to develop coal-fired power stations that essentially emit no carbon dioxide; this would work through various technologies including gasifying the coal before burning it, and capturing and storing the CO2 produced.

Environmental scepticism

Agreements with developing countries could provide an export market for these technologies.

But will this be enough to curb climate change? Environmental groups are sceptical.

"It's part of the Bush administration's strategy to prove that the technological approach is the answer to global warming," the director of WWF International's Climate Change Programme, Jennifer Morgan, told BBC News.

"You only need to look at the way that emissions are going to see that's not the case."

WWF believes that pacts on technology cannot be seen as an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol; and Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body which advises the United Nations negotiations on global warming, agrees.

"It shouldn't distract from the Kyoto process - there is room for both," he told the BBC News website.

"If countries like India could gain access to technologies like hydrogen storage or zero-emissions power generation, that would be beneficial for years to come."

Details of the proposed new pact are likely to emerge on Thursday during the Regional Forum of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), held in the Laotian capital Vientiane.

The US Deputy Secretary of State, Robert Zoellick, and Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, are likely to share a platform at 1030 Laotian time, and US officials have hinted that they will announce an environmental initiative.


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