From: Alexa Olesen, Associated Press
Published April 5, 2007 12:00 AM

Australia Pledges Aid Package To Help Clean Up China's Environment

BEIJING -- Australia pledged Thursday to help China clean its heavily polluted air and water, urging others to follow suit as China is expected to soon become the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said his nation will help China develop cleaner coal technology.

China is the world's biggest producer and user of coal, while Australia the largest fossil fuel exporter. Burning coal releases carbon dioxide, which experts say worsens global warming.

"With China likely to overtake the United States as the world's largest CO2 (carbon dioxide) emitter by 2009-10, I think we all need to encourage China to do what it possibly can ... to mitigate the CO2 emissions," he said at a news conference in Beijing.

Downer said he hoped China would do all it could to clean its environment "without sacrificing the challenge of alleviating poverty."

The Chinese government says the country currently lacks the technology to significantly reduce emissions. Leaders are also concerned that shutting older factories or power plants could wipe out jobs in poor areas, where the government worries about unrest among the unemployed.

A statement distributed at the news conference said Australia will give China AUS$26 million (US$21 million; euro16 million) in environmental aid over the next five years.

Another AUS$25 million (US$20 million; euro15 million) will be provided for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in China, the statement said.

Downer said Australia would "work intensively with China on developing clean coal technology, because by 2030, 70 percent of China's energy will still be generated by coal-fired power stations."

Australia and the United States are the only major industrialized countries to reject the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which commits 35 nations and the European community to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

"It's essential that the coal-fired power plants are substantially cleaner," Downer said at the end of a four-day trip to China and Mongolia. "Clean coal technology is going to be the solution to that problem."

Downer said he discussed the environment and climate change at length with his counterpart Li Zhaoxing.

He said the aid was "a major effort to help China increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas and sulfur dioxide emissions."

Source: Associated Press

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