President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard had a lot to agree about at this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Sydney, where the 21 member economies, including China and Russia, met for discussions.
They want nuclear power to be a fundamental part of the strategy for a low-emission economy that doesn't exacerbate global warming. "If you truly care about greenhouse gases, then you'll support nuclear power," Bush was quoted as saying in the West Australian. And they want only non-binding pollution targets to curtail emissions of greenhouse gases, the fuel for the climate fire. Howard tried to make the APEC meeting a forum for advancing that goal, which Bush first articulated this summer.
Bush plans to host a meeting designed to further that framework, at the same time the United Nations is working on a post-Kyoto Protocol set of binding targets. The United States and Australia were the largest and richest countries to reject Kyoto. On that point, the leaders ran into opposition from other countries at the Asia-Pacific conference. China led the way, calling for the U.N. to be the primary forum for negotiating a worldwide plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Consider, for a moment that China exceeded the United States only this year as the world's top polluter of greenhouse gases. Australia stands right behind the United States as a per-capita pollution leader. So these three countries form a nexus of immense importance, when it comes to the question of tackling climate change -- or choosing to do nothing. Meanwhile, China and Australia "re-affirmed" their commitment to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, according to Asia Pulse, though neither was part of the Kyoto Protocol that has aimed to curtail emissions of greenhouse gases.
They also agreed that nuclear power will be a key part of their future -- and Howard took the podium to tell the world how important China's runaway economic growth has been to Australia, which exports coal, among other goods, to feed China's rapid growth. "China's growth has been the most important economic development in years, if not in centuries," he was quoted as saying. President Hu Jintao, for his part, said China is committed to a new kind of industrialization, according to state-run media, that is sustainable and protects the environment.
Evidence on the ground suggests in abundance that China hasn't come close to that ideal yet. And Australia's commitment to economic partnership above all suggests it's along for the ride. The U.S.-Australian commitment to not committing to greenhouse gas reduction -- contrary to Europe and the rest of the industrialized world -- suggests there's a long way to go before we find consensus on a sustainable path forward that doesn't wreck the climate in the name of economic growth.
Greenpeace wrote the whole it off as hot air. All the talk about taking action to combat global warming, the group said, amounted to "a political stunt" to mask the desire to do nothing at all.
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