Australia and the United States say they will invest US$127 million to launch a new fund to support research and development of clean energy technologies.
The announcement came on 12 January in Sydney, at the end of the first meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. The partnership brings together six of the top greenhouse-gas emitters: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States.
The members say that their partnership, launched last year, will complement the UN Kyoto Protocol on climate change (see Asia-Pacific climate pact launched).
One difference, however, sets the two in stark contrast. The Asia-Pacific pact imposes no restrictions on its members' greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, they aim to continue using fossil fuels to meet growing demand for energy, but will research and use new technologies to limit the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
One proposed way of doing this is to capture the carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power stations and store them deep underground.
A report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, issued at the Sydney meeting, said that "the partnership's efforts…could lead to partners' emissions being 30 per cent less in 2050 than would have otherwise been the case".
But critics have called the partnership a sham and a "coal pact" between the world's big polluters and companies that supply fossil fuels. They point to the report's conclusion that although the partnership's activities may slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, they will not reduce them in the long run.
Greg Bourne, chief executive of WWF Australia, was severely critical of the report, calling it the most misleading public statement he had seen in "his whole career".
"If the statements made today become a reality," he said, "this will lock us into a four degree [Celsius] rise in global average temperatures when two degrees is considered extremely dangerous."
Australia and the United States are the only two industrialised countries not to have ratified the Kyoto Protocol.