Skepticism Over U.S. Climate Plan
CBS News | July 28, 2005
A U.S.-led plan to develop clean energy technologies was met Thursday with surprise in Asia and concern among critics that it was a ploy to undo the Kyoto pact, the binding accord on controlling global warming that Washington refuses to sign.
The initiative — the result of yearlong secret talks — brings together the U.S., Australia, China, India, South Korea and last-minute partner Japan with the aim of inventing and selling technologies ranging from "clean coal" and wind power to next-generation nuclear fission as a means of reducing pollution and addressing climate concerns.
"The pact sounds more like a dirty coal deal," said the environmental group Greenpeace.
"However, whatever this deal includes in its final form, it cannot and should not be used by the U.S. and Australia to escape domestic emissions reductions," said a Greenpeace statement.
The pact was made public in a statement President Bush in Washington late Wednesday, coinciding with an Asia-Pacific security meeting in Laos attended by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick among others.
The two ministers joined officials from their partner countries to announce it again at the Laos conference, insisting the pact was not "detracting" from the Kyoto Protocol but bolstering it.
"We view this as a complement, not an alternative" to the Kyoto treaty, said Zoellick. "The Kyoto Protocol could do with a bit of complementarities with other initiatives," added Downer.
Details of the "New Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate" remained sketchy, and Downer told a news conference that a ministerial meeting would be held in November in Adelaide, Australia to the plan's vision into action.
Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa his government had not yet digested the news.
"To be honest it's too early at this time to come out with a statement on that," he said, echoing remarks by other Asian governments. The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana, also in Laos, said he first heard about the pact from Zoellick earlier Thursday.
U.S. ally Singapore welcomed the pact. "Any effective effort to ameliorate the problem of global climate change must involve the U.S.," said Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo.
But critics noted that the partnership is nonbinding and sets no targets for signatories to meet in reducing pollution, talking only about grandiose ideas.
On the other hand, the Kyoto Protocol, signed by 140 countries including China, India, Japan and South Korea, is legally binding and requires countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by certain percentage.
"Together with the U.S., Australia is staging the biggest diversionary maneuver attempted since the start of international talks on climate change," Germany's left-leaning Die Tageszeitung said in an editorial posted on its Web site Thursday.
The newspaper said the other signatories to the U.S. plan "shouldn't allow themselves to be led astray by the ideologically motivated ignorance of the Kyoto opponents."
Emissions of carbon dioxide and five other gases are believed to be behind rising global temperatures that many scientists say are disrupting weather patterns.
Average global temperatures rose about 1 degree in the 20th century, and scientists say that has contributed to the thawing of the permafrost, rising ocean levels and extreme weather.
The United States, which accounts for one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, and Australia have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, saying it would harm their economies by raising energy prices, and cost five million jobs in the U.S. alone.
Their other objection is that pact mandates emission reductions only among industrial countries and not developing countries like India and China — second only to the U.S. in emissions.
Pierre Pettigrew, foreign minister of Kyoto signatory Canada, said the new initiative at least shows that the U.S. and Australia acknowledge the problem. But now they should produce results, he said.
"I still have to wait for the meat," he said.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar warned that Kyoto Protocol should not be overshadowed by any other agreement: "`It must not be in lieu of the Kyoto Protocol."