CANBERRA, Australia – The United States will join India, China and Australia in announcing a new pact to limit greenhouse gases as an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol (search), Australia's environment minister said Wednesday.
The agreement was expected to be announced later Wednesday by President Bush in Washington and on Thursday by officials from signatory countries meeting at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (search) security forum in Laos.
While 140 countries ratified the 1997 Kyoto agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Australia and the U.S. have refused because developing countries weren't required to adopt emission targets.
Environment Minister Ian Campbell (search) said Canberra and Washington had for the past 12 months been negotiating a new multilateral agreement targeting rapidly developing countries which pump out large amounts of greenhouse gas.
Labeling the Kyoto Protocol ineffective and a failure, Campbell said it was vital for developed countries to create and deploy modern technologies to help energy-hungry Asia-Pacific economies such as China and India slash emissions.
"We know that this is the answer; we know that the Kyoto Protocol is a failure in terms of saving the climate — we have to do better," Campbell said.
His comments came after a newspaper reported that the five nations, which account for 40 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, had struck a U.S.-driven secret alliance called the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate.
Prime Minister John Howard discussed the strategy with Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when he visited Washington last week, The Australian newspaper reported.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with Bush on the same subject on the same day, the newspaper said.
The opposition Labor Party called on the government to immediately ratify the Kyoto pact. Its leader, Kim Beazley, dismissed the new agreement, saying, "It is nothing. It's spin."
Greenpeace, which blockaded an Australian coal port Wednesday to protest Australia's reliance on fossil fuels, agreed that the Kyoto Protocol was the best option.
"Environment Minister Ian Campbell concedes a comprehensive agreement involving all major emitters is needed," Greenpeace energy campaigner Catherine Fitzpatrick said.
"Skulking around making secretive, selective deals will not accomplish this. Signing up to the Kyoto Protocol will," she added.
Australia has refused to ratify the Kyoto pact on the grounds it could damage an economy heavily reliant on coal and gas exports while doing nothing to curb the increasing levels of pollution billowing from developing countries such as China and India.
The U.S. is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, followed by China.
The Bush administration has opposed regulating carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases, contending that voluntary actions by industry are already reducing emissions growth, and to go further would harm the U.S. economy and raise energy prices.
Earlier this month in Scotland, the Group of Eight industrialized countries bowed to U.S. pressure by approving a declaration on climate change that avoided taking any concrete steps to fight global warming, such as setting targets or timetables for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol, which went into force in February, imposes legally binding requirements on 35 industrialized states to cut emissions of greenhouse gases an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels.
Average global temperatures rose about 1 degree in the 20th century, and scientists say that has contributed to the thawing of the permafrost, rising ocean levels and extreme weather. Experts say further increases could seriously disrupt ecosystems, agriculture and human lifestyles.