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The Failure of APEC on Climate Change

November 15, 2009

The failure of the APEC summit to signal its intent to seriously tackle climate change is extremely disappointing, just over 20 days before the start of the crucial Copenhagen summit. Talk of a legally binding deal only emerging next year is also unacceptable. The global community has been involved in climate negotiations for too long and delaying action on what is the most pressing global issue is absolutely inexcusable.

The constant dithering by countries and lack of commitment to cut absolute emissions is intolerable. Often, countries seek to find the best deal for themselves by finding reasons not to take action. This selfish behavior should not be tolerated because ultimately, it is in the common good to preserve our environment for the good of all of humanity.

APEC, with its member countries making up over 50% of global GDP and around 60% of carbon emissions is therefore a huge stakeholder in the success of climate change negotiations. Weak language and “feel-good niceties” in its statements do no one any good. How can it say it would “seek an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen” when there is no language in its final declaration on clear and specific plans for emissions reductions targets, as well as financial and technological flows for adaptation and mitigation? How can APEC merely reaffirm a 2007 goal to reduce carbon intensity of its economic output without any concrete new goals in 2009 when environmentally effective measures are needed more than ever? If the APEC governments can mobilize trillions of dollars to stimulate economic growth in the short-term, it can surely do something similar for it to transition to a low-carbon region.

With its history of continued economic cooperation, APEC is more than capable of promoting low-carbon growth on a much wider scale. Reforms to address regulatory failures that led to the global economic crisis can also be extended to catalyze systemic change that will prevent a looming environmental crisis. This summit’s aims to implement measures to ensure long-term economic prosperity can never be achieved without massively changing current production patterns that are still extremely carbon intensive.

Environmental goods and service can therefore be the centerpiece of the future of economic prosperity. In line with APEC’s maxim on trade liberalization and open markets, this sector must be expanded rapidly and promoted wholeheartedly.

Given the vastly different economic circumstances of member nations, APEC can provide a framework of a plan of action, in accordance with the much touted principle of “common, but differentiated responsibilities.” This should include cumulative emission reductions target that meet the latest developments in climate science. Environmental protection must accompany any plans in trade liberalization and expansion and economic integration. Developed countries within the bloc must take the lead in implementing bold measures to mitigate climate change.

APEC can and must do much better—the environmental and economic future of the world depends much on its decisions.

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