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U.S. Joins with Five Asian Countries to Counter Climate Change

The United States and five Asian and Pacific nations, including China and India, agreed Wednesday on a partnership to use cleaner energy technologies in hopes of curtailing climate-changing pollution.

WASHINGTON — The United States and five Asian and Pacific nations, including China and India, agreed Wednesday on a partnership to use cleaner energy technologies in hopes of curtailing climate-changing pollution.

The agreement does not bind any country -- Japan, Australia and South Korea are the others -- to specific emission reductions. It also is not viewed as a replacement for the Kyoto climate pact, which several of the participants -- though not the U.S. -- have embraced.

White House officials see the partnership as an important step in setting up a system to help emerging industrial countries produce cleaner energy and slow the growth of climate-changing emissions, especially carbon from fossil fuels.

President Bush called it a "results-oriented partnership." It will speed the development and use of cleaner and more efficient ways "to meet national pollution reduction, energy security and climate change concerns," Bush said in a statement.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman will meet this fall with their counterparts in the partnership to move the effort forward.


The Bush administration hopes the agreement will complement Kyoto, said James Connaughton, chairman of the president's Council on Environmental Quality.

The Kyoto pact, which the United States has rejected, requires that industrial countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush administration prefers to addresses climate change through voluntary actions and by emphasizing the need to develop technologies that cut emissions and capture carbon.

Connaughton mentioned technology transfers and exchanges of ideas as ways the partnership could work on climate change and other pollution problems.

The six countries pledged "enhance cooperation" to address the growth of climate-changing pollution while still meeting their growing energy needs, and nonbinding commitments to develop clean coal, nuclear and hydroelectric technologies that are less carbon intensive.

The U.S. has been eager to find ways to get China, India and other rapidly industrializing nations to deal with climate change.

White House officials say that one problem with the Kyoto pact is that it does not require China and India, whose growing energy needs also will mean growing greenhouse pollution, to commit to emission reductions.

The U.S. accounts for one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gases that are going into the atmosphere. Emissions are growing at the rate of 1.5 percent a year despite the administration's voluntary climate change policies.

Emissions from developing countries are expected to grow even faster.

"Within the next decade or two, developing countries will overtake the industrial world in total greenhouse gas emissions, so that by 2025 more than half of global annual emissions will be coming from developing countries," economist W. David Montgomery, a critic of the Kyoto accord, told a recent Senate hearing.

Environmentalists have criticized Bush's voluntary approach to dealing with climate change. They said the new initiative is little more than what already is being pursued through various bilateral discussions.

"All they're doing now is wrapping together a few of these partnerships," said Annie Petsonk of Environmental Defense.

Connaughton said the agreement culminated more than five months of talks. Bush discussed the issue with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when they recently visited Washington.

Howard has taken issue with the Kyoto accord, preferring other approaches to dealing with global warming.

"We know that this is the answer," Howard told reporters Wednesday in Australia, referring to the technology development partnership. "We know the Kyoto protocol is a failure in terms of saving the climate. We have to do better."

In recent weeks Bush has gained several victories for his climate policies.

Congress is preparing to enact energy legislation that essentially endorses the voluntary approach on climate and includes incentives for development and exporting clean energy technologies.

This month in Scotland, the leading industrialized countries bowed to U.S. pressure by approving a declaration on climate change that avoided taking any concrete steps to fight global warming, such as setting targets or timetables for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: Associated Press