Activists repudiate ‘aspirational goals’

An agreement by 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum leaders on Saturday to adopt “aspirational goals” to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been criticised by voluntary agencies as inadequate for saving the world from the effects of climate change. Australian PM John Howard, in a statement read at the end of the first session of the

APEC leaders’ summit, said there was agreement on the “need for a long-term aspirational, global emissions reduction goal.”

“Aspirational targets are vague and unenforceable. An estimated 35 million people are involved in ‘Clean Up the World’ and they are all demonstrating their commitment to reducing GHGs through activities in their communities. APEC leaders have let them all down,” said Ian Kiernan, chairman of the voluntary agency ‘Clean Up Australia’.

Greenpeace energy campaigner Catherine Fitzpatrick told that the “Sydney Declaration’s non-binding aspirational goal of reducing energy intensity by at least 25% by 2030 would mean business as usual. The failure of this APEC to produce meaningful progress on climate change confirms that the place to do this is at the Kyoto negotiations in Bali in December.”

APEC ‘member economies’, including the US, Australia, Russia, Canada, Japan, China and Indonesia, are responsible for around half the world’s GHG emissions. The declaration was signed on Saturday, to accommodate US President George W Bush and allow him to fly back to Washington early and attend to a crucial report on the war in Iraq. But Bush, who had arrived on Tuesday, took the opportunity to hold meetings with such top leaders as China’s President Hu Jintao, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe.

The key feature of the Sydney Declaration talks about a “long-term aspirational goal for reducing global GHG emissions, to guide an effective post-2012 international arrangement on climate change; all economies should contribute to achieving that goal, taking into account national circumstances and allowing for a range of market-based policy measures.”

“APEC will adopt regional goals to reduce energy intensity and increase forest cover, highlighting policies that support economic growth whilst reducing GHG emissions,” the declaration said. The declaration affirms the primary importance of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a point Hu Jintao indicated was critical to any agreement on the statement. Climate campaigners from leading voluntary organisations like GetUp! and Avaaz have welcomed the Sydney Declaration’s support for the UN-led climate negotiations, even as they denounced its failure to commit to binding global targets.

Get Up! executive director Brett Solomon said, “Howard’s undermining of Kyoto has not only made APEC a failure, but risks his political future as well. Any agreement that does not unequivocally commit to national and international binding targets dramatically fails our region and the globe.”

Global civic advocacy group Avaaz campaign director Ben Wikler said, “APEC has missed an opportunity to commit to binding climate targets for developed nations. In failing to move the world economy away from fossil fuels, APEC leaders are turning into fossils themselves.” — IPS