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    The leaders of 21 nations participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum have adopted a draft declaration on greenhouse gases, accepting for the first time concrete global goals to reduce CO2 emissions.

    SYDNEY, September 8 (RIA Novosti) - The leaders of 21 nations participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum have adopted a draft declaration on greenhouse gases, accepting for the first time concrete global goals to reduce CO2 emissions.

    Although the draft plan, dubbed the "Sydney Declaration" by Australian Prime Minister John Howard, sets only non-binding targets, it represents a dramatic compromise between rich and poor APEC economies and retains the UN climate change convention as the primary framework to fight global warming.

    Most significantly, it is seen as a triumph for the U.S. and Australia in persuading China, a major polluter, and other developing nations to accept measurable reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

    With the Kyoto Protocol on climate change due to be replaced in the coming years by a more binding agreement, the APEC draft will likely serve as the basis for the UN climate change summit in Bali, Indonesia in December.

    The Kyoto Protocol, which has not been ratified by the U.S., is due to expire in 2012.

    Although the APEC forum normally addresses economic and development issues, the Australian prime minister succeeded in placing the issue of a replacement for Kyoto squarely on the agenda of this year's session.

    The statement, which was released ahead of Saturday's summit-level meeting, said in part: "We call for a post-2012 international climate change arrangement...that strengthens, broadens and deepens the current arrangement and leads to reduced global emissions of greenhouse gases."

    Among the initial targets agreed to, energy efficiency in the Asia-Pacific region will be improved by at least 25% by 2030 over 2005 levels.

    Forest areas in the region will also be increased by 20 million hectares by 2020.

    The statement said that, if achieved, the new forest cover would store approximately 1.4 billion tons of carbons, equivalent to around 11% of annual global emissions.

    The full statement is expected to be published Sunday, following the summit.

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