SYDNEY, Australia -- Environment ministers and business leaders from six Asia-Pacific countries began meeting in Sydney Wednesday to discuss alternative industry-focused strategies for reducing climate change.
Amid heavy security, representatives from the United States, China, India, Japan, South Korea and host Australia are meeting to look at promoting cleaner and more efficient energy technologies.
The new grouping, called the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, is billed by the participants as complementary to the Kyoto Protocol.
Speaking at the start of the conference, Australia's Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said Kyoto -- which only mandates emission cuts in industrialized nations -- would not do enough to counter greenhouse emissions as demand for energy soared in coming years.
"The real solution has to come from industry," he said, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said industry leaders understood the imperative for cleaning up emissions.
"I believe that the people who run the private sector, who run these companies, they do have children, they do have grandchildren, they do live and breathe in the world," AP reports Bodman saying.
Together, the six nations in Sydney for the two-day conference account for almost half of the world's energy use, and on a per-capita basis Australia and the United States are the two industrialized nations with the highest emissions of carbon dioxide.
Australia and the United States are not parties to the Kyoto Protocol. Japan is a supporter, with binding commitments while China, India and South Korea also are Kyoto supporters, though with non-binding commitments.
While security was tight with streets cordoned off around surrounding the upmarket harborside hotel where the meeting is being held, protesters were well behaved and peaceful.
In a joint statement, a coalition of non-governmental organizations on Wednesday called for the partnership to enact targets, timetables or market-based incentives to encourage the use of already developed clean energy technologies, AP reports.
The groups -- representing American and Australian environmental groups -- also called for providing financial incentives to China, India and South Korea as a way to encourage the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
"The conference will fail if it doesn't put in place (regulations) and strong financial incentives for industry to spend billions and billions of dollars on clean energy today," Erwin Jackson, climate change program manager with the Australian Conservation Foundation, said according to AP.
"If it just throws research dollars to the coal industry to clean up their act in 15 to 20 years, we've missed an opportunity."
Environmental group Greenpeace claims the meeting will be dominated by coal industry interests. Greenpeace argues there should be more emphasis on renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal power.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said earlier the meeting would push ahead with practical plans on climate change that would achieve "real results."
He said Australia and the United States would fund technological incentives on clean energy usage.
That was expected to involve business in a plan to drastically reduce energy consumption in industries such as aluminum, cement and steel, and to push for cleaner-burning coal.
Catherine Fitzpatrick, Greenpeace Australia's energy campaigner, said this week that the meeting was more akin to "coal pact" talks, and its draft agenda left no room for science-based energy solutions to cut greenhouse gases.
She said that coal industry interests were being favored, with resources companies such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton likely to dominate the talks.
China, which is by far the fastest-growing of the world's top six economies, is already a major customer of global energy suppliers.
It was the world's top user of conventional coal in 2004, using 34 percent of total global consumption, followed by the United States at 20 percent. India, the other fast-growing developing economy, accounted for 7.4 percent of coal burned in 2004.
The United States is the world's top oil user at 25 percent. China and Japan account for 8 percent and 6 percent of global consumption, respectively.