APEC leaders agree climate change pact at summit
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asia-Pacific leaders agreed on Saturday to adopt a "long-term aspirational goal" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.
Howard said 21 Asia-Pacific leaders meeting in Sydney agreed on the need for all nations, developing and developed, to contribute according to their own capacities and circumstances to reducing greenhouse gases.
"We are serious about addressing in a sensible way, compatible with our different economic needs, the great challenge of climate change," Howard told reporters at the end of the first day of the weekend summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
"This demonstrates the relevance of APEC. It demonstrates that APEC is very much alive and kicking."
Green groups thought otherwise.
"The Sydney Declaration is really just a Sydney distraction from real action on climate change," Greenpeace energy campaigner Catehrine Fitzpatrick said. "The failure of APEC to produce meaningful progress on climate change confirms that the place to do this is at the Kyoto negotiations in Bali in December."
Proponents of the declaration say it sets the stage for the U.N. climate convention's annual summit in Bali, Indonesia in December, which is looking for a successor to the existing U.N. pact, known as the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.
The declaration was seen as a compromise between the rich and poor APEC economies, which together account for about 60 percent of the world's economy.
REVERSING CLIMATE CHANGE
But it calls for a global objective that would prevent "dangerous human interference with the climate system..
"The world needs to slow, stop and then reverse the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions," the declaration says
Developing economies, led by China and Indonesia, opposed any wording that commits them to binding targets, believing it would hinder economic development. They argue developed nations should take more responsibility for climate change.
The 21 leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum met behind a tight security cordon at Sydney Opera House, as thousands of protesters marched nearby against U.S. President George W. Bush, the Iraq war, global warming and a hodgepodge of other causes.
They emerged at midday for the annual "funny shirts photo op", this time dressed in Australian stockmen's raincoats on a brisk, overcast spring day before returning to their Sydney Opera House redoubt to work on the climate change statement.
Bush has had a whirlwind round of meetings with other leaders on his four-day visit, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, Australia's John Howard and leaders of Southeast Asian countries.
On Saturday, he met Abe and Howard for a trilateral summit,
that was expected to publicly urge China to be more transparent about its military build-up.
A senior Japanese government official said the three leaders agreed to deal "constructively" with Beijing, which had cast a wary eye on the meeting, fearing it could turn into an alliance aimed at containing China.
KALEIDOSCOPE OF PROTESTS
Instead, India dominated the discussions, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.
"I think there is a recognition now that India is a coming great power," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters after the trilateral summit.
Police had feared the protest march near Sydney Opera House would become a flashpoint for a full-scale riot, but in the end Saturday's anti-APEC march was a peaceful, kaleidoscope of protests. Nine were arrested after scuffling with police.
Now Sydneysiders are questioning whether the $140 million operation featuring 5,000 police and troops, a mine sweeper in Sydney Harbor, the security fence cutting the city in half and the purchase of a water cannon, may have been a little excessive.
"The biggest reason we're all here is to protest at just how much is being spent on security," Sydney community worker Bridget Hennessey said at Saturday's march.
A week of protests have been non-violent and even farcical. About 50 people turned up in a city park on Friday to bare their buttocks in a "21-bum salute" to Bush.
Earlier this week, a television comedy troupe, posing as the Canadian delegation, drove their motorcade through two checkpoints to within meters of Bush's hotel -- with one of them made up to look like Osama bin Laden sitting in the back, and the designation "Insecurity" written on their convention passes.