The Sydney Declaration on Climate Change at the Sydney APEC Forum contains just over 2000 words.
It reaffirms signatories' commitment to the UN principles on Climate Change.
It commits nothing till after 2012.
It says, in part, that members of APEC will:
- "work(ing) towards achieving an APEC-wide regional aspirational goal of a reduction in energy intensity of at least 25 per cent by 2030 (with 2005 as the base year);"
- "work to achieve an APEC-wide aspirational goal of increasing forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares of all types of forests by 2020"
Have another look at point 1:
"work towards achieving an ... aspirational goal" means that the aspirational goal might never eventuate. There is no requirement of members. China apparently almost baulked at this - it wanted something stronger (to its credit).
Nevertheless, there is a target - 25% less energy intensity than 2005 by 2030. But there are no intermediate targets; no requirement for members to start acting; nothing has to be done in the political lifetime of the leaders.Increasing the forest cover is a fine aspirational goal. APEC countries apparently account for 54% of the worlds managed and natural forests ( Abare Economics) . However, a nuber of APEC countries where these forests are being denuded (legally or illegally) includes: Australia;
Indonesia; Phillipines; Thailand; China; Mexico; Papua New Guinea; Chile; Peru; and Viet Nam.
These represent a significant portion of APEC nations. Australia, for example, is still waiting on a decision on a Tasmanian woodchip mill that would partly use old-growth forest timber; some other countries have significant problems with illegal timber clearing.
The aspirational target to increase forested area has no timeline of commitments, and the statement allows countries to argue economic differences to avoid doing anything.
Overall, the document has escape clauses to avoid doing anything, even after 2012; and, if anything is done, it could well be after the current political leaders are no longer in office.
The reality is, it was about John Howard, in particular, trying to look good before an election - without him having to do anything.