Environmentalists reject APEC climate-change agreement

Environmentalists dismissed the climate-change declaration signed by 21 Pacific Rim countries Saturday because emissions reductions are voluntary. Meanwhile, the APEC leaders urged a renewed effort in the Doha process.

Environmentalistshave dismissed the climate-change declaration signed Saturday by the leaders of 21 Pacific Rim countries, including Canada.

The deal, announced in Sydney by Australian Prime Minister John Howard, includes the intention to set aspirational — voluntary — emissions reductions targets, and other green initiatives.

"We agree to work to achieve a common understanding on a long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal," said the Sydney Declaration, issued after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting.

The leaders also urged a renewed effort in the Doha process on Sunday as the meeting wound to a close.

The final leaders' declaration included a statement "of very strong support for the Doha round and an urgent request for all countries involved in the Doha process to renew their efforts to achieve an outcome," Howard was quoted in some media reports as saying.

But on theclimate change declaration,environmentalists dismissed the voluntary targets.

"Without legally binding targets —reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — the Sydney Declaration is meaningless," said Abigail Jabaines from Greenpeace Philippines.

"The world doesn't have time for voluntary action. What we need on climate change is real action, real targets and real timetables," Julie-Anne Richards, of Australia's Climate Action Network, told CBC News.

Even a member of Howard's cabinet had harsh words about aspirational targets in April.In a lecture at Monash University, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said aspirational targets are "code for 'a political stunt.' An aspirational target is not a real target at all."

Thedeclaration said APEC members will try to improve energy efficiency by at least 25 per cent by 2030.

It also calls for forest cover to be increased by at least 20 million hectares by 2020 as a way of combating climate change, which, if achieved, "would store approximately 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to around 11 per cent of annual global emission [in 2004]."

Canada credited

Canada was given credit Saturdayfor helping the leaders set the targets. "We appreciate the efforts of Japan and Canada in proposing a long-term global goal," the declaration said.

Howard said that it "does transcend a number of international divisions. In particular I note that it is the first such gathering that has included both the United States and China in coming together regarding the aspirational goal."

Thedeclaration was adopted by the leaders of the United States, Canada, Australia, China, Russia and other Asia-Pacific countries.

3,000 protest

While the APEC meetings continued, a dozen blocks away and on the other side of a three-metre-high fence fortified by concrete barriers and a police cordon, about 3,000 protesters held a colourful, mostly peaceful march and rally.

Causes included protests against the war in Iraq and ending poverty.

Police, who had warned of potential violence and been given special search powers by the local government, had only minor scuffles with demonstrators.Seventeen protesters were arrested and two officers injured, police said.

With files from the Associated Press