Asia-Pacific Leaders Vow to Combat Climate Change, Food Scarcity

LIMA, Peru, November 24, 2008 (ENS) – Leaders of the Asia-Pacific countries expressed their willingness to work together to “confront the challenge of climate change,” which they agreed “will be crucial to the wellbeing of future generations.”

At the close of their annual meeting Sunday in Lima, the heads of state and government belonging to the Asia-Pacific Economic Council, APEC, affirmed their support for “decisive and effective long term cooperation now, up to and beyond 2012 to address climate change” under the United Nations process.

The language in the final statement echoes that in proposals put forward by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

“All parties should, in keeping with the requirement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol and the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” actively conduct negotiations for the implementation of the “Bali Roadmap” and take effective policy measures in light of their respective conditions to mitigate climate change,” the Chinese president said in his proposal.

The APEC leaders statement supports “a global emission reduction goal” for heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that is the primary issue to be negotiatied through the UN process.

The next step in this process is a 12 day set of talks opening in Poland December 1. An agreement acceptable to all parties is to be finalized in Copenhagen in December 2009. The agreement will follow the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

“We also noted the declaration in this regard by the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit held in July this year,” the APEC leaders stated.

APEC leaders in an informal moment. U.S.
President George W. Bush, center with
blue tie, enjoys his last trip as president.
(Photo courtesy APEC)

On the surface, there appeared to be no measureable progress in climate change during the talks in Lima. But senior Japanese officials seemed pleased that the APEC leaders’ statement mentions the G-8 summit.

“It was not easy to include a clause on the G-8 summit in the declaration,” as China and many other fast-growing APEC economies are not part of the G-8 framework, one of the Japanese officials told the Kyoto News Service

At the G-8 Summit in July, the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States sought to share the goal of at least halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with other major greenhouse gas emitters such as China and India.

Climate change is triggering natural disasters that are increasingly difficult to deal with by countries acting alone, the APEC leaders acknowledged.

“The frequency and intensity of natural disasters related to the distortion of climate patterns in the region is increasing and the location of, and growth of, cities and mega-cities in vulnerable areas increases the impact of catastrophic events,” they stated. “Improving risk reduction, disaster preparedness and management in the region is a critical human security issue facing the region.”

“We agreed that the challenges in this area are significant and growing in complexity and required greater international cooperation and coordination with the private sector, international organizations and nongovernment organizations,” the leaders stated.

Alleviating poverty is tougher with the added challenges of climate change and natural disasters, the APEC leaders said. “Reducing poverty is likely to become more difficult in those developing economies most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and related natural disasters.”

A concern related to climate change and natural disasters is food security, the leaders stated, saying, “We are deeply concerned about the impact that volatile global food prices, combined with food shortages in some developing economies, are having on our achievements in reducing poverty and lifting real incomes over the last decade. The poor are especially vulnerable to increases in food prices.”

The APEC leaders stressed not only the urgency of getting stalled World Trade Organization talks moving again, and also emphasized the potential of renewable energy development to move economies forward while fighting climate change.

“Conscious that access to adequate, reliable, clean and affordable energy resources is vital to sustaining economic prosperity in the region, we reaffirmed our commitment to supporting the energy needs of regional economies by promoting open energy markets and free energy trade and investment,” the leaders stated.

“Such markets are crucial to the development of renewable sources of energy and the dissemination of low emission energy technologies, including new and alternative energy resources and technologies,” they said, adding, “We encouraged our officials to promote such developments and urge them to pursue regional energy efficiencies and maximize the potential development of clean energy technology.”

U.S. President George W. Bush and Peruvian
President Alan Garcia at the APEC meeting
in Lima (Photo courtesy APEC)

The two-day APEC meeting in Lima was U.S. President George W. Bush’s last trip as president. He told the APEC leaders, to applause, that he has attended every APEC meeting held during the eight years of his presidency.

But while the other APEC leaders were focused on climate, natural disasters and renewable energy as well as recovery from the current global financial crisis, President Bush said little about these issues, preferring to emphasize the merits of democracy and free trade.

Bush said only, “Over the past eight years, we’ve taken measures to protect our people from terror and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We’ve responded to natural disasters. We’ve worked to prevent the spread of potential pandemic diseases like avian flu and SARS. We’ve worked to confront climate change and usher in a new age of clean energy.”

APEC consists of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

The APEC annual conference will be held next year in Singapore, followed by Japan in 2010, the United States in 2011 and Russia in 2012. In the Peruvian capital, Indonesia offered to host the summit in 2013.

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