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US, Australia supplanting Kyoto

Australia admits secret climate pact talks with US

Australia and the United States have been secretly negotiating a new international pact on greenhouse gas emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which they refused to sign, a minister said Wednesday.

The negotiations have also involved China, India and South Korea, according to a report in The Australian newspaper.

Environment Minister Ian Campbell said details of the deal and the countries involved would be announced soon.

Greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere are blamed for global warming, seen as one of the world's greatest environmental dangers, and the refusal by the United States and Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol was widely condemned.

"The countries that are involved in any future proposal will be announced when we announce the details of the proposal," Campbell told reporters, adding that this would be "in the very near future".

"Australia is, and I reassure the Australian people, working on something that is more effective post-Kyoto," Campbell said.

"We know as a country we're vulnerable, we know the world is vulnerable, we know that Australia only emits 1.4 percent of the world's greenhouse gases (and) anything that is going to work in the future has to engage all major emitters.

"The main aim of effective action is to involve rapidly-developing countries who have legitimate needs to increase their energy use, but we also need to find the answer to the global imperative of reducing emissions.

"That's going to need the development of new technologies and the deployment of them within developing countries."

The UN's Kyoto Protocol requires industrialised countries to trim emissions of carbon dioxide, the byproduct of burning oil, gas and coal, by a deadline of 2010.

One of the US arguments against the present Kyoto format is that it does not require big developing countries such as China and India to make targeted emissions cuts -- an absence that Bush says is unfair and illogical.

But developing countries say historical responsibility for global warming lies with nations that industrialised first, and primarily with the United States, which by itself accounts for a quarter of all global greenhouse-gas pollution.

The new alliance will bring together nations that account for more than 40 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, The Australian said.

A government source told AFP that the general thrust of the report was correct, but that the line-up of countries involved had not been finalised.

The Australian said the group would be known as the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate.

Campbell said Australia, which has vital interests in coal and gas exports to China and South Korea, had been working on the new alliance for the past 12 months.

The Australian said the initiative was led by the United States and had been discussed when Prime Minister John Howard met President George W. Bush at the White House during a visit to Washington last week.

The leader of the opposition Australian Greens party, Bob Brown, dismissed the new agreement was "a coal pact" involving four of the world's biggest coal producers.

It was designed to "defend the coal industry in an age where it's the biggest industry contributing deliberately to the global warming threat to Australia and the planet," he told reporters.

"This is the blinkered view, the ostrich approach by prime minister Howard to arguably the biggest common threat to the planet in 2005, which is global warming.

"It won't fool the Australian people and it won't fool world opinion," Brown said.