Six of the world's biggest polluters endorsed a voluntary plan Thursday that they claim will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2050.
SYDNEY, Australia Six of the world's biggest polluters endorsed a voluntary plan Thursday that they claim will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2050, but environmentalists called it an empty promise that will only benefit big business.
The United States and Australia pledged a combined US$127 million (euro105 million) to help finance the six-nation Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. The partnership's plan calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by promoting renewable energy sources and cleaner ways to use coal but avoids setting targets for reducing emissions.
The group also consists of rapidly expanding, energy-hungry nations China and India, as well as South Korea and Japan. Together, the six countries produce half of the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
The top U.S. delegate said the group, which has called itself AP6, would tackle global warming blamed for rising sea levels and increasingly severe weather events like the hurricanes that lashed the United States last year, while not curbing economic growth.
"I believe the partnership will not only succeed but serve as a model for simultaneously enhancing economic growth, promoting sustainable development, and at the same time addressing issues related to global climate change," U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told a news conference.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said efforts to improve energy efficiency and invest in green technologies could reduce greenhouse gases by 30 percent from current levels by 2050 in the six countries, citing a study released Thursday by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE).
But environmentalists disputed the study, and claimed the AP6 plan would cause greenhouses gases to rise 100 percent by 2050.
"There couldn't be anything more irresponsible than to knowingly embark on a path toward massive increases in emissions and runaway global warming," WWF-Australia CEO Greg Bourne said.
The group agreed at its two-day meeting to set up eight working groups of government and business leaders to promote investment and research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in energy-hungry industries like steel, aluminum and cement manufacturing, as well as electricity generation.
The energy measures favored by the U.S. and Australia included greater use of such renewable sources as wind and solar power, and treating coal so it gives off fewer greenhouse gases when burned or burying the gases underground.
Environmentalists said the the group was focusing too heavily on untried technologies to prop up the fossil fuel industry, and not enough on renewable energy sources.
"Thanks to the work of the Australian and U.S. governments, the delegates to this meeting have agreed to continue the coal trade while watching greenhouse pollution double by 2050, and they have the gall to call that climate protection," Greenpeace climate campaigner Catherine Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard defended the plan, saying that coal, oil and gas will remain the dominant source of energy.
"The world will go on using fossil fuels for many years into the future because it's more economic to do so," Howard said. "So, therefore, it's elementary common sense that you should try and make the use of fossil fuels more greenhouse gas sensitive, you should try and clean up the use of fossil fuel."
Howard pledged to pump 100 million Australian dollars (US$75 million; euro62.05 million) over five years into the effort to fight global warming.
James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said that U.S. President George W. Bush will seek US$52 million (euro43 million) in his country's 2007 budget to manage the partnership's work.
Canberra and Washington have often been criticized as the only major industrialized nations to refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which legally binds countries to targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.
Source: Associated Press