(CNSNews.com) - The United States and its anti-Kyoto Protocol ally Australia are on the verge of announcing a new "beyond Kyoto" plan aimed at tackling climate change without jeopardizing economic development.
The project, news of which was leaked to a national daily newspaper in Australia, will reportedly include giant Asian polluters China and India as well as South Korea.
A key U.S. and Australian criticism of the Kyoto Protocol is the fact that it does not require developing countries to reduce their emissions of "greenhouse gases" -- CO2 and other pollutants blamed for climate change -- by specified amounts.
Citing that concern as well as the potential damage to their economies, Washington and Canberra have refused to ratify Kyoto, which came into effect last February.
The U.S. in particular has come under strong criticism from foreign governments and environmentalists for its stance.
The new alliance would bring together nations that account for more than 40 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, The Australian reported Wednesday. It said the Australian and Indian prime ministers discussed the plan with President Bush during their respective visits to Washington last week.
Asked at a press conference Wednesday about the report, Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell confirmed that Australia had been "working on something that is more effective post-Kyoto."
It had been involved in discussions with "partners around the world" for the past 12 months on proposals, which he said "will be announced in the very near future."
Campbell declined to name the countries involved, but said that "the main target ... is to involve developing countries."
"Anything that's going to work in the future has to engage all major emitters."
Although he would not give details of the project, Campbell did say that drastically curbing emissions while meeting countries' growing energy needs would require "trillions of dollars of investment in technology."
"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," he said.
"We need to engage the big emitters, we need to engage the countries that have no commitments inside Kyoto, we need to ensure that we develop technologies that will see energy expand -- because we need more energy."
The news brought a flurry of strong reactions from Australian political parties and green groups supportive of Kyoto.
Kim Beazley, leader of the official opposition Labor Party, dismissed the reported new plan as "spin."
He urged Prime Minister John Howard to "sign the Kyoto Protocol immediately and stop mucking about."
Australian Greens party leader Bob Brown in a statement said the "secret pact" was driven by coal interests.
The countries reportedly involved in the plan included "four of the world's biggest coal producers -- China, USA, India and Australia," he said.
"This is all about taxpayers' money being diverted from developing clean renewable technologies to try to make burning coal less dirty."
Greenpeace energy campaigner Catherine Fitzpatrick accused the government of "skulking around making secretive, selective deals" instead of signing up to Kyoto.
Another environmental group, the Australia Conservation Foundation, took a different approach, saying it welcomed signs that Bush and Howard "are now recognizing that serious action is needed to tackle climate change."
Of the reported new plan, the organization's executive director Don Henry said: "Promoting new technologies is important but we also need tough targets to cut greenhouse pollution if we are to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change."
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