01/12/2006, 00.00
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World's biggest polluters urge industry to reduce greenhouse gases

Lower greenhouse gases and rising global temperatures are the main focus of the Asia-Pacific Partnership meeting between the United States, Australia, Japan, China, South Korea and India. Environmentalists instead are in the streets protesting what they call a stunt by the US and Australian governments to divert attention away from their refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Sydney (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The world's biggest polluters opened a two-day climate conference with politicians insisting industry leaders will voluntarily cut emissions and also fund the reductions. Senior ministers discussed a common strategy to induce industry to adopt voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gases. They are prepared to invest funds to help industry and have agreed to a multimillion dollar plan to develop clean energy.

The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate includes the United States, Australia, Japan, China, South Korea and India, along with dozens of executives from energy and resource firms.

The countries—with 45 per cent of the world's population—account for nearly half the world's gross domestic product, energy consumption and global greenhouse gas emissions, the Australian government said.

The group is expected to announce measures aimed at developing cleaner, more efficient technologies to reduce greenhouse gases. But there will be no Kyoto-type targets for cutting emissions, which the US and Australia argue would harm their economies. Industry is instead expected to self-regulate without specific targets or taxes on the amount of carbon they pump into the atmosphere.

Australian Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said it was time private enterprise accepted the task of halting global warming.

US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said he would call on executives to act. "It's the private sector, the companies that own the assets, that make the potential allocations [towards reducing greenhouse gases] that are ultimately going to be the solvers of the problem," he said.

The ministers were expected to use the closed meeting to press corporate giants such as oil firm Exxon Mobil, miner Rio Tinto and Peabody Energy for billions of dollars for pollution reduction.

American Electric Power Chairman Mike Morris said industry was prepared to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into clean energy. His company alone had committed US$ 20 billion to the latest hi-tech power plants.

"There has been a tremendous amount of progress today under a voluntary nature," Mr Morris said after the first day's talks concluded.

Environmentalists have called the meeting a stunt to divert attention from the US and Australian governments' refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which binds countries to targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.

They also said the meeting was focused exclusively on untried technologies that would prop up the fossil fuel sector rather than putting financial resources into proven renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal power.

Voluntary compliance would fail, said Anthony Patt, of the Boston University Centre for Energy and Environmental Studies.

"It is clear that voluntary agreements to reduce emissions, even when coupled with government subsidies to develop new technologies, accomplish very little," Professor Patt said.

Greenpeace campaign manager Danny Kennedy said protesters were angry that the government had called an environment meeting aimed at entrenching the Australian economy's reliance on mining resources.

"It's clearly a conference about how to keep selling uranium and coal while we pretend that we are addressing the problem of global warming," he said.

Secretary Bodman said the world community must consider nuclear power if it is to make any cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, as global demand for electricity is set to increase by half over the next 20 years. "Nuclear power, it seems to me, is an obvious requirement" for the future, he noted.

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