nations divided over US carbon summit

Green groups have received the announcement with scepticism and claim it will sideline Prime Minister John Howard’s wish to make September’s APEC meeting in Sydney a platform for discussing strategies on climate change.

"I warmly welcome the announcement by the US that it will convene a meeting of major economies, including Australia, to determine a common approach towards climate change, in Washington DC on September 27 and 28," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement.

"Australia will join 13 leading economies and the UN at the meeting, which will take forward President Bush’s initiative to address the environmental, energy security, and economic aspects of climate change.

"With Australia’s emissions less than two per cent of global emissions, climate change demands an effective global response.

"Australian action to reduce emissions, while important, will have little meaningful impact if not part of wider international action."

Mr Downer said an effective international framework was one that included all major emitters, took account of differing national circumstances and goals for sustainable development, and allowed countries to adopt a range of policies to reduce their emissions.

"This is why climate change is the key focus for the Asian-Pacific leaders at the APEC summit in September in Sydney. Climate change is much more than an environmental issue – it’s an economic one," he said.

Greens leader Bob Brown said Mr Bush’s announcement gazumped the prime minister’s plan for APEC to be a global climate change breakthrough.

"While the Bush summit is belated recognition of the reality of climate change and the threat it poses to our Earth, there will be scepticism that President Bush, who spurned the Kyoto Protocol, will now be claiming leadership on climate change," he said in a statement.

"And Bush’s move leaves Howard and his APEC plans sidelined.

"At best, APEC will now be seen as preparation for the main event.

"Clearly President Bush doesn’t know that his friend John Howard, Australia’s man of steel, is facing an election in November."

But Mr Howard said both meetings were part of the same process.

"I see this, which will come a few weeks after the APEC meeting here in Sydney, as another step along the road to developing a practical, commonsense international arrangement to follow the Kyoto Protocol which, for very good national interest reasons, Australia has not signed," Mr Howard told reporters.

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