US unveils new alternative to Kyoto

The world's top polluter, the United States, is set to unveil a pact to combat global warming by developing energy technology aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, U.S. officials and diplomats said on Wednesday.

China and India, whose burgeoning economies comprise a third of humanity, as well as Australia and South Korea, are also part of the agreement to tackle climate change beyond the Kyoto protocol.

Kyoto requires a cut in greenhouse emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 but the United States and Australia have never ratified the protocol because it excluded major developing nations such China and India.

Diplomats in the Laotian capital Vientiane said the pact would be formally announced on Thursday when U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick holds a press conference attended by representatives of the other signatories.

Zoellick is attending a regional forum in Laos.

Details of the pact remain unclear but it appears to echo recent comments by President Bush who advocated the use of technology in curbing growth in greenhouse gas emissions rather than setting targets he believes threaten the U.S. economy.

Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell said on Wednesday that the five countries had been quietly working on the pact for months.

"It's quite clear the Kyoto protocol won't get the world to where it wants to go ... We have got to find something that works better - Australia is working on that with partners around the world," Campbell told reporters on Wednesday, informs Reuters.

The US has been driving the negotiations but Australia was part of the deal, given its interests in coal and gas exports to China and South Korea, as well as talks with China on uranium sales for nuclear energy, Sify news said.

"You need a comprehensive agreement that involves all of the major emitters. At the moment, we don't have that," Australian Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, said.

"By moving more and more towards renewable (energy), such as solar and wind, and a whole range of technologies that we can develop here in Australia and ultimately export to places such as China and India - building partnerships with these countries is going to be the solution," Campbell added, reports Sify.

The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty on global warming. It also reaffirms sections of the UNFCCC. Countries that ratify this protocol commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases. A total of 141 countries have ratified the agreement. Notable exceptions include the United States and Australia.

The formal name of the agreement, which reaffirms sections of the UNFCCC, is the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, opened for signature on March 16, 1998, and closed on March 15, 1999. The agreement came into force on February 16, 2005 following ratification by Russia on November 18, 2004, according to Wikipedia.

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