Environmentalists yesterday slammed this week's inaugural meeting of a US-led partnership that aims to develop cleaner energy technologies to combat global warming, with one group calling it a "trade show" for business interests.
The two-day meeting of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate begins on Wednesday and brings together government and business representatives from the US, Australia, China, India, South Korea and Japan.
It aims to spur more private investment in the region, while also slowing global warming.
But environmentalists were skeptical that a meeting led in part by the two industrialized nations that rejected the Kyoto Protocol on global warming -- Australia and the US -- can yield any meaningful results.
"The record of both the Australian and US governments on this issue on the international stages has been appalling," said Erwin Jackson of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
"This is an opportunity, their second opportunity, to show that they are serious about tackling the climate change problem. Our hope would be that they don't miss that opportunity again," he said.
Several private companies were expected to attend the meeting, the Australian newspaper reported in its weekend edition. Among those were mining and energy giants Rio Tinto, Chevron Australia, Xstrata Coal and BP Solar, along with a number of US, Chinese, Korean and Indian power and steel interests.
"It's becoming clear that it is really just a trade show," Greenpeace campaigner Danny Kennedy said. "It's about how big business and bureaucrats can best ensure that the climate change agenda and the politics of confronting ... global warming doesn't derail their profit taking."
Repeated calls to Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell's office seeking comment went unanswered yesterday.
The 1997 Kyoto treaty mandates specific cutbacks in emissions of carbon dioxide and five other gases by 2012 in 35 industrialized countries.
The US and Australia rejected it, in part, because of its mandatory cuts in gases believed to be warming Earth's atmosphere.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to attend the meeting but canceled amid concerns over the health of ailing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Rice will be replaced by US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.
Kennedy said Rice's absence from the summit, along with its lack of emphasis on mandatory emissions reductions targets, would seriously "undercut" its effectiveness.
Jackson said he too was "not very optimistic" about the meeting's outcome.