EU, Asia Leaders Agree to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emmissions Beyond 2012

Thirty-eight European and Asian leaders vowed Monday to stand united against terrorism and pledged to keep cutting greenhouse gases after a U.N. pact on climate change expires in 2012.

But delegates at the two-day summit in Finland stopped short of setting new targets beyond the Kyoto agreement, reflecting Asian concerns that sharp emissions cuts could sap the strength of energy-hungry developing economies.

Their declaration on climate change recognized that developing countries have "legitimate priority needs" to develop their economies and lift millions out of poverty. Washington abandoned the Kyoto treaty, saying it would hurt the U.S. economy.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung told the summit that, thanks to phenomenal economic growth, his country's "poverty rate was halved from 58 percent in 1993 to 22 percent in 2005." He said Vietnam plans to just about eradicate poverty in another 14 years.

At their sixth summit in a decade, the leaders of the 25-nation European Union and 13 Asian countries observed a minute of silence for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, vowing to stay the course in the international fight against terrorism.

"The fight against terrorism ... must make use of many different means," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. "The end does certainly not justify any means. But it is of great significance that the international community act in unison."

The leaders, whose countries represent about 40 percent of the world's population and half of its output and trade, said they would use their combined economic and political clout to help shape a safer, more equitable and multilateral world. The latter was seen as a nod to U.S. domination in world affairs.

"Our deliberations have brought both our regions closer together in defining joint responses to global challenges," said Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, the summit chairman.

The summit brought together the leaders of the 25 EU nations and those of China, Japan, South Korea, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Global warming was a key issue, and delegates said they would work toward continued cuts of greenhouse gases after 2012, when the Kyoto protocol expires. Most scientists say greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane contribute to global warming, but disagree on how much.

With Asia's energy demand soaring — pushing up oil prices — Europe is eager to promote renewable energies and energy efficient technologies to cut overall consumption and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The Europeans also need carbon credits from investments in clean energy projects in developing countries to meet their commitments under the Kyoto treaty.

Currently, the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol commits 35 industrialized nations to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels in the 2008-2012 period. Rising economic giants as China and India are exempt, and the treaty says nothing about post-2012 cuts.

The commitment of Europe and Asia to continue with cuts in greenhouse emissions appeared designed to pressure the U.S. into a more activist role on climate change than the administration of President George W. Bush has displayed to date.

In a "Declaration on the Future," the leaders detailed areas of closer cooperation, notably multilateralism, globalization, competitiveness, labor issues, health, education, science and technology, environment, sustainable development, climate change and energy.

The leaders agreed to admit Pakistan, India and Mongolia to their club, along with Romania and Bulgaria once they join the EU in 2007 or 2008.

The leaders said they will work toward a "fair, just and rules-based multilateral international system" centered around the U.N. and for "peace and security, sustainable development and human rights in accordance with the U.N. Charter and international law."

The EU has strong trade ties with Japan, China and South Korea, the three Asian economic powers. In the past decade, EU trade with Japan and South Korea grew by double digit figures.

EU exports to China surged 227 percent to $61.5 billion, and imports by 382 percent to $163 billion between 1995 and 2004. But Europe's trade with Southeast Asia has been stagnant.