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 September 09, 2007
APEC Climate Pact: A Compromise -- but forward looking?

 Vancouver, Canada (GLOBE-Net) -- As far as it went, the Final Statement released on Sunday by leaders of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation at the end of their Sydney Australia summit, was compromise -- but one that had some forward looking potential.

"The world needs to slow, stop and then reverse the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions," the 21 leaders said in the forum's declaration on climate change.

There is nothing profound in this restatement of the obvious, but because it was endorsed by all of the group's rich and developing members, it could influence upcoming U.N. negotiations on climate change.

In a separate Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development, the Leaders stated that economic growth, energy security and climate change are fundamentally interlinked challenges for the APEC region, and reaffirmed their commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Based on UNFCCC principles, a series of points were set out as the basis for any equitable and effective post-2012 international climate change arrangement:

  • Concerted actions that are equitable and environmentally and economically effective be taken by all economies toward shared global goals;
  • Differences in economic and social conditions among economies be recognized that are consistent with common but differentiated responsibilities and capabilities.
  • Diverse approaches, practical actions and international cooperation across a broad range of areas relevant to climate change be recognized, along with the importance of market mechanisms.
  • Co-operation, including joint research, development, deployment and transfer of low and zero emission technologies for continued and cleaner use of fossil fuels particularly coal, and for those economies which choose to do so, the responsible use of nuclear energy is acceptable.
  • Sustainable forest management and land use practices be addressed in the post-2012 international climate change arrangement.
  • Climate change and energy security must avoid introducing barriers to trade and investment.
  • Domestic development strategies for adapting to climate change impacts should be supported by the international community, through appropriate policy exchanges, financing, capacity building and technology transfer.
  • Based on the foregoing elements of compromise, the APEC Leaders that are Parties to the UNFCCC agreed to work actively and constructively toward a comprehensive post-2012 arrangement at the upcoming Conference of the Parties.

    In a separate Action Agenda the Leaders decided to:

  • Highlight the importance of improving energy efficiency by working towards an APEC-wide regional aspirational goal of traducing energy intensity by at least 25 per cent by 2030 (with 2005 as the base year);
  • To achieve an APEC-wide aspirational goal of increasing forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares of all types of forests by 2020;
  • To establish an Asia-Pacific Network for Energy Technology (APNet) to strengthen collaboration on energy research in our region particularly in areas such as clean fossil energy and renewable energy sources;
  • To establish an Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management and Rehabilitation to enhance capacity building and strengthen information sharing in the forestry sector; and
  • To further measures in trade in environmental goods and services, aviation transport, alternative and low carbon energy uses, energy security, the protection of marine biological resources, policy analysis capabilities and a co-benefit approach.
  • While many have dismissed the statements as ineffective in terms of actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the APEC climate change declaration brings together the world's major economies and some of its biggest polluters under one framework, which if adopted at upcoming climate change negotiations in Washington, New York and Indonesia to devise a successor to the Kyoto Protocol could have powerful global repercussions.

    The only two concrete goals in the APEC declaration is to reduce "energy intensity" --- the amount of energy needed to produce a dollar of gross domestic product --- 25% by 2030, and to increase forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares (50 million acres) by 2020. Both are non-binding targets.

    The intensity-based approach to emissions reduction was a nod to Canada and Japan, both of whom were acknowledged in the declaration for contributing this as an aspirational goal of APEC.

    Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, speaking to the APEC Business Summit, echoed points that eventually appeared at the core of the APRC Leaders declaration. He stated Canada's domestic approach is based upon certain principles that should apply to any long-term global agreement on climate change:

  • Be effective by having clear goals and including all major emitters;
  • Be fair and economically realistic, not unduly burdening the growth of any single country;
  • Be flexible, so all countries can choose tools and policies that suit their unique circumstances; and
  • Must support the development and deployment of new and better technologies.
  • The acknowledgements of differing capacities of rich versus less wealthy countries to should the burdens of combating climate change were seen as a concession to developing countries that previously were exempt from the Kyoto Protocol, but which now are likely to be brought into any successor framework.

    This was a key goal of both the United States and Australia going into the Summit meetings, and both appear to have fared well in terms of having other member states accept renewed efforts for the development and dissemination of clean coal technologies; the responsible use of nuclear energy as a means to reduce GHG emissions; strengthening and expanding an Asia-Pacific network for energy technology collaboration; and reliance on market forces.

    As was summed up by one Indonesian official, Salman Al-Farisi, "Everybody cannot get everything, but everybody did not lose too much." Of the compromise he stressed that, in line with APEC's consensus-based, non-binding approach, nothing in the agreement was cast in stone. "It is (up to members') discretion to follow, in accordance to their national programs," he said.

    The Sydney APEC Leaders' Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development and the associated Action Plan is available Here.