Asia Economy

China's Hu Wants U.N. Framework on Climate Change


China's President Hu Jintao gave qualified support to an Australian initiative on climate change on Thursday as a rift opened at the APEC meeting over the "Sydney Declaration" and its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Hu told a rare news conference after meeting Australian Prime Minister John Howard that he prefers a U.N. framework for climate change proposals.

"We very much hope that this Sydney Declaration will give full expression to the position that the U.N. framework convention on climate change would remain the main channel for international efforts to tackle climate change,"  Hu said after meeting Howard.

The declaration should also reflect U.N. principles of "common but differentiated responsibilities" toward lowering harmful greenhouse gas emissions, he added.

He made the comments as Asia-Pacific ministers appeared to be deadlocked on Thursday over over what the so-called "Sydney  declaration" should say.

"We sleep on the same bed, but we have different dreams," one Philippine delegate said, referring to the rift between developing and developed economies over the issue.

Aspirational Targets

Australia, as host of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, has put climate change at the top of the agenda.

Its draft declaration calls for a new global framework that would include "aspirational" targets for all APEC members on lowering greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists say is causing the climate to change.

Australia, backed by the United States, says the Kyoto protocol, the world's main climate change treaty, is flawed because it does not commit big polluters in the developing world, such as India and China, to the same kind of targets as industrialised nations.

That approach is getting a decidedly lukewarm response at the APEC meeting from China and developing countries, which prefer to see the whole issue handled at a U.N. meeting later this month in New York.

"As one of our ministers, (Malaysia Trade Minister) Rafidah said, that E (in APEC) stands for economic, not environment," Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu told reporters, adding ministers should look at how climate change affects business.

Some countries did want to mention figures in any statement on climate change, believing this inevitably raises the question of obligation, said a spokesman for Japan's Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.

Kyoto's first phase runs out in 2012 and the APEC summit is one of a growing number of efforts to find a formula that brings rich and developing countries together on climate change.

Hu has had a warm reception since his arrival in Australia on Monday when he visited the mining-rich state of Western Australia before heading to Canberra and a tour of a sheep farm.

But in Sydney, religious group Falun Gong staged a protest against China's human rights record that attracted up to 2,000 people in Sydney's Hyde Park.

Fortress Sydney

Australia has launched its biggest ever security operation in Sydney to welcome the 21 leaders attending this week's APEC meetings. Newspapers have dubbed the city of more than 4 million people "Fortress Sydney".

Bush meets Hu later on Thursday and says he expects to have robust discussions on everything from product safety and trade to climate change, jailed dissidents, Beijing's support for Myanamar's junta, the Dalai Lama and Iran. 

The two men are only scheduled to meet for 20 minutes.

At his news conference, Hu said China is ready to boost international cooperation to ensure its export products met appropriate safety standards.

"The Chinese side has also adopted a number of important measures to improve product quality and food safety ... we are also making efforts to improve the legal and regulatory framework in this regard."