ASEAN leaders sign energy pact, but no targets
Monday, January 15, 2007; 1:53 AM
by Carmel Crimmins
CEBU, Philippines (Reuters) - Asian leaders signed an energy security pact on Monday that seeks to reduce oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions in some of the most polluted countries on the planet, but offers no concrete targets.
Southeast Asian leaders along with the heads of China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand held their second East Asia summit in a more constructive atmosphere than last year as Beijing and Tokyo used the meeting to further mend ties.
"This year is more focused on substance. Last year it was like a house-warming party, everybody came and got to know each other" Ong Keng Yong, secretary-general of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), told reporters.
The leaders also discussed North Korea's nuclear ambitions, financial integration, disaster mitigation and bird flu.
But the center-piece of summit was an energy security pact that seeks to reduce the region's dependence on costly crude oil and help stave off climate change.
Unlike the European Union, however, which last week unveiled ambitious energy proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent, the Asian leaders, who run some of the most polluted nations on earth, offered no concrete targets.
The pact calls for encouraging the use of biofuels, hydropower, or nuclear power to reduce dependence on conventional fuels.
It also calls for private sector investment in energy infrastructure.
The head of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) urged East Asian countries on Monday to create a regional free trade bloc and to increase financial cooperation to reduce the risk of crises.
"To maximize the potential benefits of free trade agreements, East Asia has to chart a clear roadmap to establish a region-wide FTA," Haruhiko Kuroda told the summit in the central Philippines.