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APEC On Climate And Doha

  • September 7th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

sydney-livingroomorgau2.JPGAUSTRALIAN OPINION: No carbon goals? Is this Bush Week?

NO MOVES ON 20/20

The questions are asked as heads of the 21 countries in APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation) began enacting their stated intentions not to sign-up on climate change commitments on the European scale.

Bitter drought afflicting the host country helped to underline the urgency of the problem, Australia’s national weather Bureau this week (3.9.07) publishing a glum annual estimate that dry times were set to continue – and continue.

The APEC gathering includes heads of government expressly challenged by the European Union in March, when it adopted its 20/20 standard (20% carbon dioxide reduction by 2020), and proposed to go further if others would do the same. (See EUAustralia Online 11.3.07, “Summit Takes A Lead On Climate Change”).

All the EU spokespersons then specifically mentioned the United States, China and Russia, main players at the Sydney gathering this week, as appropriate candidate partners.

Both the host government at Sydney, and the principal guest, President George Bush, refused to sign on for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first multi-lateral drive to recognise and try to allay impacts of changing climate.

PART-CONVERSIONS ?

Both have come to accept the global warming phenomenon as a fact while still resisting any commitment to goals expressed in numbers.

This week (5.9.07) Prime Minister John Howard listed joint projects recently taken up:

“I am pleased to announce that I have agreed with President George W. Bush today on the importance of confronting the challenges of climate change and energy security,” he said.

“This stems from our commitment to action on climate change that reduces greenhouse gas emissions in ways that enable all countries to grow their economies, reduce poverty and improve living standards …

“We have agreed Australia and the United States should strive for a post-2012 global accord on climate change providing for fair and equitable contributions by all major emitters, with an emphasis on practical actions…”

The projects included development work on low emission technologies, in clean fossil fuels, aluminum, coal mining, renewable energy, power generation, cement, buildings and appliances, and steel. He announced Australian participation in the FutureGen International Partnership, “a major US-led international project to building a prototype plant that integrates coal gasification and carbon capture and storage to produce electricity with near-zero emissions.”

He announced also a commitment to nuclear solutions, through the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), an international partnership working on fourth generation nuclear power plant technology, and the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), “a US-led initiative to expand the safe and secure use of zero-emission nuclear energy.”

STILL NO 20/20

Still no 20/20; and furthermore, any more less-than-extensive multilateral side-agreements were scotched by the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, in Sydney yesterday (6.9.07).

He wants the Kyoto standards applied, but also wants to see existing developed countries paying most, and so insists that climate change is better dealt with at the United Nations; the largest multi-lateral forum, where all states get one vote, and where certain major players, such as China itself, have veto authority.
While the numbers games go on Earth swelters and starts to go dry.

MORE FREE TRADE?

Sceptics would note that where two or more world leaders meet they must have a go at getting the “Doha Round” of trade negotiations going again.

Today at Sydney (7.9.07) President Bush called on the APEC partners to join in efforts to revive the Doha Round .

He told a gathering of 450 international business leaders the United States had the “will and the flexibility” to conclude an agreement.

The Doha talks, the current edition of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations on trade liberalisation, reached stalemate in mid-2006.

Tension exists in certain trade areas especially agricultural goods, but also in aspects of services or intellectual property.

An example of the difficulties arose when the “G4” assembled to talk Doha three months ago at Potsdam in Germany: representatives of Brazil and India as emergent economies, with America and the European Union for the “developed” world.

Suggestions were made on the US and EU side that both groups of countries should make unrecompensed concessions to poor countries, and that their own concessions to the more advanced developing states, on agriculture, should be rewarded with better access for industrial products. The meeting ended early, Brazilian and Indian representatives considering it was pointless to continue. (See EUAustralia Online, 22.6.07, “Glum Outcome of World Trade Meeting”).

APEC AGENDAS AND AUSTRALIA

The APEC program provides nearly a full week of events in the lead-up to its closing summit of leaders.

Local interest has been stimulated by the approach of elections in Australia; George Bush offering overtly glad-handed endorsements of his fellow-conservative and friend John Howard; the Chinese-speaking Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, stealing kudos in a televised welcome for Hu Jintao.

Economic cooperation, the core of the exercise, may see some positive steps on the WTO round.

Side deals have included the large-scale agreements made this week for Australia: clearing sales of uranium to the power industry in Russia; additional resources trade, e.g. gas, for China; and formalised extended cooperation on defence and military technology with the United States.
While APEC is not a security forum there is provision to debate “new security issues”, namely terrorist activity in the region, most specifically fundamentalist Islamic groups in South-east Asia.

Further items: Concerted measures against official corruption; China has entered into consultations on measures against food contamination in trade.

SECURE OUTCOMES

Security issues provide a footnote to all such gatherings, Sydney’s elaborate security on the ground causing some curious glances – especially the “Berlin Wall”, a five-kilometre steel barrier cordoning off conference areas of the CBD.

On Thursday the security zone was penetrated by a TV comedy troupe traveling by motorcade, one member dressed up as Osama Bin Laden; they drove up to George Bush’s hotel.

The perpetrators were booked under special security laws; no word yet on suspension or admonishment of guards who waved them through.

Lee Duffield

Reference:

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) (Home), 7.9.07. www.apecsec.org.sg … (7.9.07)

Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Drought Statement Issued 3 September 2007,3.9.07.http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_releases/climate/ (7.9.07)
Australian Government, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet; “Australia and the U nited States, Climate Change and Energy”, 5.9.07; “Emissions Trading and Greenhouse and Energy Reports”, 4.9.07. www.dpmc.gov.au … (7.9.07)

“Bush Calls for Action on Trade”, ABC News (Australia), 7.9.07. www.abc.net.au … (7.9.07)

Marian Wilkinson, “China backs Kyoto as basis for greenhouse gas action”, SMH.Com.Au – Sydney Morning Herald, 7.9.07.
http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/(7.9.07)

Picture:

Sydney Harbour and Opera House, google – sydneylivingroom.org

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