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Climate Change, Nuclear Power Central to APEC Meeting

Published by MAC on 2007-09-06

Climate Change, Nuclear Power Central to APEC Meeting

SYDNEY, Australia, (ENS)

6th September 2007

Australia and the United States will cooperate more closely on climate change and nuclear power, Prime Minister John Howard and President George W. Bush announced Wednesday at a news conference following their bi-lateral meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, gathering in Sydney.

The leaders and senior officials of the 21 APEC economies situated around the Pacific Rim are meeting here through Sunday to strengthen the Asia-Pacific community. The focus of the APEC meeting will be on economic development, trade, regional security, job creation and climate change.

Prime Minister Howard told reporters, "We agreed on joint statements regarding climate change and energy, a joint nuclear energy action plan, which involves cooperation on civil nuclear energy, including R&D, skills and technical training, and regulatory issues.

"Australia intends to participate in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, and there will be great benefits in terms of access to nuclear technology and nonproliferation," Howard said. "And the United States will support Australian membership in the Generation IV International Forum, which involves R&D to develop safer and better nuclear reactors."

Under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, nations with advanced nuclear capabilities would provide fresh fuel for nuclear power plants and recover and recycle used fuel for other client nations who agree to employ nuclear energy for power generation purposes only. Energy officials from the nuclear powers China, France, Japan, Russia and the United States signed on to the plan in May.

On the defense side, said Howard, "the two countries will explore enhanced cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. And that could, in fact, involve a stationing - basing in Australia by the United States equipment and stores and provisions that would be available for ready use in disaster relief in our immediate region. And we think in particular of any repetition of the tsunami disaster or things of that kind which occurred a couple of years ago."

The two countries will strengthen their "already robust program of military exchanges and joint operations," said the Australian prime minister, who assured President Bush that Australian forces would remain in Iraq.

President Bush defended his approach to climate change, including his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol that limits the greenhouse gas emissions of industrialized nations by a legally binding percentage of 1990 emissions. Neither the United States nor Australia has joined the Kyoto treaty, named for the city in Japan where it was drafted in 1997.

"Now, I know some say, well, since he's against Kyoto he doesn't care about the climate change," said President Bush. "That's urban legend, that is preposterous."

Pointing out that last year the United States "reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions and grew our economy at the same time," Bush said that shows his strategy of putting new technologies in place is working.

Australia and China are both coal producing and consuming countries, but burning coal in traditional ways produces large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Bush complimented the Australian prime minister for proposing to cut back on tariffs that prohibit the export of technologies that will enable China to burn coal more cleanly. "We support him strongly on this, so that technology is more likely to be able to flow from those of us who have it to those who don't," Bush said.

"And there are fundamental questions," he said. "How fast can we get effective technology to the market - coal sequestration technologies, nuclear spent fuel reprocessing technologies to the market? And once to the market, can we help developing nations acquire those technologies?

Otherwise, it's an exercise that's not going to be effective," said Bush. "So I appreciate you bringing up the nuclear power initiative," said Bush to Howard. "If you truly care about greenhouse gases, then you'll support nuclear power. After all, nuclear power enables you to generate electricity without any greenhouse gases."

For years the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States was surpassed by China this year. The American president said he would discuss climate change with Chinese President Hu Jintao during the APEC meeting.

"In order for there to be an effective climate change policy, China needs to be at the table," said Bush. "In order to get China at the table they have to be a part of defining the goals. Once we can get people to define the goals, then we can encourage people to define the tactics necessary to achieve the goals."

"I believe this strategy is going to be a lot more effective than trying us - people - countries to say, this is what you've got to do. We're telling you how to behave - as opposed to why don't we work together to achieve a common consensus on being good stewards of the environment," said Bush, adding, "APEC is a good forum to do this."

Today, President Hu addressed the opening ceremony of the APEC Business Summit and expounded China's views on advancing comprehensive cooperation among the APEC members in pursuit of sustainable development in the region and the world at large.

Friday, when APEC leaders gather for the high-level portion of the meeting, has been declared a public holiday in the Sydney metropolitan area.

All week, steel fences and concrete barricades have surrounded the APEC area and armed guards are in the streets.

President Bush apologized for the high level of security and said he feels "guilty" about it.

"Look, I don't want to come to a community and say, you know, what a pain it is to have the American President. Unfortunately, however, this is what the authorities thought was necessary to protect people," said Bush. "And you live in a free society. People feel like they want to protest; fine, they can. And unfortunately, evidently, some people may want to try to be violent in their protests. But I apologize to the Australian people if I've caused this inconvenience."

New South Wales Police are allowing the state's Green Party to hold an event for media in Sydney's Martin Place on Friday, despite threatening Tuesday to go to Supreme Court to prevent it.

"The Greens have been requested to move an event that we are planning in Martin Place even though it is several hundred meters outside the APEC restricted zone," said Sylvia Hale, NSW Greens MP and police spokesperson.

The New South Wales government, endorsed by the APEC Taskforce, has legislated that areas of the Sydney Central Business District, Hickson Road, Darling Harbour and parts of the Harbour off Circular Quay are "declared areas" under the APEC Meeting (Police Powers) Act 2007. This enables specific police powers to be used in those areas to ensure public safety and order.

"The APEC police powers law gives the police extraordinary additional powers but it does not allow them to ban any dissenting views from being expressed in the middle of the Sydney Central Business District," said Hale.

The Greens event will be a press conference accompanied by some street theatre featuring a group of party members dressed to resemble lifesavers candies while Greens Senator Kerry Nettle calls on APEC leaders to be climate savers.

"We have held scores of similar events in Martin Place without incident," said Hale. "There is absolutely no reason why we should not be allowed to express a political view in Martin Place or anywhere else in the city."

Hale called on NSW Premier Morris Iemma to guarantee that there will be no undercover police or other security agents attempting to provoke violence at demonstrations planned during the APEC meeting.

Her call follows an admission by Canadian authorities that three people photographed wearing bandanas covering their faces and carrying rocks at an August demonstration at the North American government leaders summit were undercover police officers.

"I want a public assurance that the police will not be trying to manufacture an excuse for giving their special APEC powers and weapons a workout," said Hale. "Sydney has a long history of peaceful political protest and the Greens want to see that history continue. We are discouraging any violence by either protesters or police."

Twelve Greenpeace activists were arrested Monday at the world's biggest coal port at Newcastle, 160 kilometers north of Sydney, after painting the message "Australia Pushing Export Coal" on the side of a coal ship, The Endeavour, and unfurling a large banner in Chinese calling on China to be cautious of John Howard and George Bush’s attempts to sabotage Kyoto. Greenpeace says the protest was staged to expose the Howard Government's real APEC agenda, "to protect Australia's coal export industry by undermining the Kyoto Protocol."

Two ice sculptures of Prime Minister Howard and President Bush are touring Sydney during the APEC forum slowly melting in the sun as a reminder of the impact of climate change and the failure of these two leaders to ratify the Kyoto Protocol or set firm targets for greenhouse gas reductions.

The ice sculptures were made for Make Poverty History, a coalition of more than 60 aid agencies, community groups and religious organizations, to dramatize the coalition's report "APEC: An End to Extreme Poverty - An Alternative APEC Agenda."

Make Poverty History Co-chair Andrew Hewett said climate change is not simply an environmental or economic challenge. "It is a moral challenge, because those least responsible for causing the problem - the poorest people in the poorest countries of the world - will overwhelmingly pay the highest price as climate change begins to bite."

He urged Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, commit to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and support adaptation to the planet's warming climate on the part of developing countries around the Pacific Rim. APEC's 21 Member Economies are - Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, China; Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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