Wed, Jan 11, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Demonstrations expected as climate meeting opens

GLOBAL WARMING Ministers from six countries and leading oil and mining executives are meeting in Sydney in a conference critics are calling a sham

AFP , SYDNEY

Hundreds of protesters are expected to demonstrate against government inaction on global warming today when ministers from some of the world's worst polluting countries attend a major climate change conference in Sydney.

Ministers from the US, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia will be joined at the two-day meeting by representatives from some of the world's biggest mining and energy companies including Exxon Mobil, Rio Tinto and Peabody Energy of the US.

Most countries have ratified the UN's 1997 Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing the emission of greenhouse gases but two of the leading countries in this week's talks, the US and Australia, have not.

The US accounts for 25 percent of carbon emissions while Australians produce more carbon dioxide per person than any other country, but they say the Kyoto pact is unfair because it does not commit developing nations to reducing emissions.

The first Asia Pacific Clean Development and Climate meeting aims instead to develop new technologies to reduce the effect of emissions on climate, such as burying the gases underground.

Critics say the six-nation initiative, which will be non-binding, is a smokescreen to enable some of the world's major producers and consumers of fossil fuels to avoid taking the difficult and costly action needed to reduce emissions.

About 200 environmentalists are expected to protest outside the Four Seasons hotel today to "expose the meeting as a sham and as an all talk and no action meeting," Nature Conservation Council director Cate Faehrmann said.

"The US and Australia continue to put up meetings such as this to avoid taking any real action on climate change," she said.

"We think that this is simply a meeting between governments -- the US and Australia -- who are not really wanting to go down the renewable energy track because they are so in bed with the fossil fuel industry," she said.

Faehrmann said Australians were becoming more aware of the problem of global warming, particularly after the country experienced its hottest year on record last year and wildfires swept through homes and farmland after searing temperatures earlier this month.

Australian Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, who will chair a business dialogue to open the meeting with US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, said the talks signaled "the beginning of a new era in emission technology development."

"It's pleasing that business has dealt itself into this dialogue in such a major way, without the threat of carbon taxes or other penalties," Macfarlane said in a statement.

"This is about identifying commercial technologies of our future," the statement said.

Professor Warwick McKibbin of the Australian National University said what the conference would achieve was still unknown.

"It's bringing them [officials] to the table to take on commitments of some sort. But from there on we just don't know what they are going to do," he said.

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