The U.S. and five Asia-Pacific nations on Thursday unveiled a pact they said would reduce global warming, but critics, including Germany's environment minister, said it was no alternative to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
The United States, Australia, India, China, South Korea and Japan said the "Beyond Kyoto" pact envisions the development of nuclear and solar power to reduce greenhouse gases, and was not a threat to the existing Kyoto Protocol. "We are not detracting from Kyoto in any way at all. We are complementing it," said US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick. Zoellick added the agreement would "open up the possibilities for developing, deploying and transferring" new and more efficient technologies, according to Deutsche Welle.
The six nations that agreed the pact after secret negotiations account for almost half of the world's population and greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, their non-binding pact does not have enforcement standards or a specific time frame for signatories to cut emissions.
The signatories argue it complements, rather than weakens, the 1997 Kyoto agreement, which imposed targets on industrialized countries to cut their emissions, according to BBC.
Of those involved in the new deal, called the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, only Japan has also signed up to Kyoto.
Akio Takemoto, of Japan's environment ministry, told the AFP news agency: "Kyoto remains in place and the new initiative focuses on transferring technology to developing countries to eliminate the emissions of carbon dioxide gas."
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told BBC Radio 4's Today program the focus had to be on encouraging more public and private investment in developing clean energy technology.
He said Australia and others were unable to back Kyoto because they believed setting targets would damage economic growth, resulting in tens of thousands of job losses.
"Our concern is that in the end Kyoto is simply not going to do the job as it's currently structured," he said. But critics of the new pact believe, while such regional pacts could support international cooperation on climate change they are "no alternative" to the binding emissions goals included in Kyoto protocol.
"We should not only develop new technologies, but also use existing technologies, for example, to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies," Deutsche Welle quoted German Environment Minister Jьrgen Trittin as saying.
Reuters quoted some of the experts’ opinions on the pact.
Steve Sawyer, Climate Policy expert at Greenpeace: "It's a technology transfer and trade agreement and if it results in the better distribution of some of the better technology then that can help," he said, but added the pact was not a credible alternative to Kyoto.
Catherine Fitzpatrick, Greenpeace Energy Campaigner: "All the evidence around the world shows that voluntary schemes don't work, which is one of the reasons that the Kyoto protocol became a legally binding treaty. I think it's a tragedy that we have the Australian government and the U.S. government doing whatever they can to undermine international action on climate change."
Cho Han-jin, South Korean Environment Ministry Official: "We plan to increase the number of countries in the pact by the end of the year. We aim to announce a charter along with the partners by the end of this year with details on technology areas where cooperation is needed."
Lee Sang-Hun, of the Korean Federation for the Environmental Movement: "Efforts to form the new pact raise the possibility of hurting the basic framework already agreed, which is the Kyoto Protocol and could be controversial."
One of the arguments used against the Kyoto Protocol by Australia and the US is that it does not require big developing countries to make targeted emissions cuts - an absence that US President Bush says is unfair and illogical. But developing countries say historical responsibility for global warming lies with nations that industrialized first, and primarily with the US, which alone accounts for a quarter of all global greenhouse gas pollution.
Information on Kyoto protocol