SYDNEY An Asia-Pacific climate change agreement
was a milestone because it marked the first time the world's
biggest polluters had pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions,
Australia's Prime Minister said on Sunday.
"This is the first such agreement involving the major
polluters -- the United States, China and the Russian
Federation," John Howard told a news conference following the
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
"And (it) is therefore a very important component, along
the hard march of mankind towards reaching a sensible,
workable, international agreement to cover the period
post-Kyoto, that is 2012 onwards," he said.
Pacific Rim leaders, including U.S. President George W.
Bush, China's President Hu Jintao and Russia's Vladimir Putin
adopted a "Sydney Declaration" on climate change that calls on
members to commit to a voluntary, non-binding global target to
Proponents say the declaration creates consensus on the
thorny climate change issue and will carry momentum into a
series of meetings in Washington, New York and Bali about
replacing the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.
But green critics ridiculed the idea of voluntary targets
and some developing countries in APEC thought the Sydney
Declaration was a diversion from U.N. efforts to hammer out a
post-Kyoto global agreement.
Howard insisted, however, it was part of the process.
"It was unrealistic to expect that out of this meeting we
would have a commitment to binding targets," Howard said.
"No one meeting, no one agreement is going to fix this
issue, Kyoto didn't fix it," he added.
"What this agreement represents is a proper recognition of
the fact that different economies have different needs, have
different views and have different capacities.
"Everybody has to be involved but not everybody will make
the same contribution," Howard said.