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US-Asia climate pact unveiled

July 29, 2005 on Straits Times Interactive

US-Asia climate pact unveiled

Six-nation agreement calls on technology, not emission cuts, to fight global warming

By Bhagyashree Garekar

VIENTIANE - A NEW United States-led pact was unveiled here yesterday that calls for the use of technology instead of cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming.

The agreement was negotiated on the quiet by the US and five Asia-Pacific countries.
The six countries - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the US - account for about a half of the world's population, energy needs and emissions of the climate-changing greenhouse gases. Forest-shrouded Laos, with its agrarian economy and hardly any manufacturing activity, provided the backdrop for the group to declare themselves wedded to discovering a technology-centred way to keep the planet clean.

Although the initiative was an American one, it was announced at a news conference that stuck to Asean's customary preference for an alphabetical way of doing things. It was introduced by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who described it as a 'new path for global agreements to emerge based on clean technology development and deployment'.

The treaty is not binding and does not have enforcement standards. 'The key here is to maintain the flexibility,' Deputy US Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said.

The US and Australia have refused to be party to the main convention on global warming, the 1997 Kyoto Treaty. They say it is unfair as it does not require cuts in emissions from developing nations such as China and India, which are major pollution offenders.

The new pact, which Beijing and New Delhi have both signed, seemed to overcome that hurdle.
Singapore was among the first to see its potential.

'Singapore welcomes the newly-formed six-nation Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate,' Foreign Minister George Yeo said yesterday.

'Any effective effort to ameliorate the problem of global climate change must involve the United States. We see US leadership in this initiative as a positive development.'

That argument seemed to have won over India too.

'The new pact includes America and that was a vital consideration for us,' India's Vice-Foreign Minister Rao Inderjeet Singh told The Straits Times.

Mr Zoellick and Mr Downwer answered immediate concerns that the new pact would supplant existing international climate agreements like the Kyoto treaty. They said the pact was consistent with a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Details of the pact will be worked out at a meeting in Adelaide, Australia in November.