China, Australia agree on climate cooperation
CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia and China have agreed to hold annual ministerial talks on climate change and to work together to clean up carbon pollution from coal-fired power stations, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Friday.
The Mandarin-speaking Rudd made the announcement in Beijing on Friday after talks a day earlier with China's Premier Wen Jiabao, saying both countries needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which are blamed for global warming.
Australia is the world's largest coal exporter and China is the world's biggest generator of coal-fired electricity. Rudd said that meant both countries had a joint interest in finding ways to clean up carbon emissions from coal-fired power.
"We in Australia, must collaborate absolutely closely with China on the climate change challenge," Rudd, who has previously offered to act as a bridge between China and the West on climate change, told reporters in Beijing.
"What we want to do is work with China to produce a better outcome globally on climate change, which is critical for the planet, critical long-term in terms of the impact on climate change on our country as well."
Rudd has made climate change one of his key priorities since his centre-left Labor government won power last November. His first act after being sworn in as prime minister was to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
The former conservative government led by John Howard refused to ratify the U.N. pact, which sets binding greenhouse gas curbs for developed nations.
Howard joined U.S. President George W. Bush in rejected the pact because major polluters China and India were not obliged to tackle their rapidly growing emissions under Kyoto's first phase that ends in 2012.
China is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide and some studies suggest it might already have overtaken the United States last year.
Under the deal announced on Friday, Australia would provide A$20 million ($18.6 million) to a joint Australia-China clean coal project, to help fund research projects on clean coal technology.
Rudd and Australia's Climate Change Minister Penny Wong visited the Gaobeidian coal-fired power station in Beijing on Friday, where Australia is spending A$4 million on a carbon capture and storage project.
Rudd said the plant was expected to be running by August this year, and if successful, would store around 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
He said China and Australia have agreed to hold annual ministerial talks on climate change, with the first meeting to be hosted in Australia in the second half of 2008.
(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by David Fogarty)