Asia - Pacific Economic Cooperation

Asia - Pacific Economic Cooperation

The Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping was inaugurated in 1989 to take advantage of the growing inter-dependence of Asia–Pacific economies by fostering cooperation to encourage growth and a reduction in barriers to trade and investment.

APEC has 21 members: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; the Republic of the Philippines; the Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei (Taiwan); Thailand; the United States of America; Vietnam. Combined, its members generate approximately 70 per cent of global economic growth.

APEC's work has focused on 'three pillars'—trade and investment liberalisation, business facilitation and technical cooperation. APEC has sought to operate on the basis of open dialogue and equal respect for the views of all participants. Decisions are reached by consensus and there have been no legally binding commitments. Compliance with commitments has been achieved through peer pressure and is supported through technical cooperation. APEC's priorities and goals are set out at annual meetings of APEC Economic Leaders and Ministers. In geopolitical terms, APEC may be regarded as one of the most significant forums in which Australia has considerable influence.

Climate change has until recently not been a focus for APEC cooperation. The relevance of climate change factors (particularly in terms of energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions) for APEC members has, however, been emphasised in a research report published by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) in September 2007. ABARE noted that growth in the APEC region, especially in the developing member economies, had meant that by 2004 member economies amounted to about 61 per cent of global output. Given access to open markets and affordable and reliable energy supplies, the APEC region should grow at an average rate of 3 percent annually by 2050. This would be accompanied by strong growth in both energy consumption (rising by 139 per cent) and greenhouse gas emissions (which would rise by 130 per cent).

ABARE suggested that if APEC economies adopted cleaner and more energy efficient and lower emission technologies, they could maintain growth and development while reducing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions (the report estimates that use of advanced technologies could reduce emissions by 49 per cent relative to otherwise expected levels in 2050). Additional research and development could bring forward new lower and near-zero emissions technologies that would reduce further the link between growth and emissions. Increased emphasis on sustainable forest management and lowering the rate of deforestation could make additional contributions to reducing emissions.

APEC has recently sought to contribute to advancing policy development in relation to climate change in two major ways. APEC has a number of programs to encourage energy efficiency, improve energy technologies, and increase transport efficiency, including use of alternative fuels.

APEC has also increased its focus on climate change by adopting the Sydney APEC Leaders' Declaration on Climate Change Energy Security and Clean Development on 9 September 2007. In the Declaration, members agreed that all economies should contribute to a post-2012 international framework and supported the value of a long-term aspirational emissions target as a key element of a future framework. Further to this, cap and trade schemes to control emissions of greenhouses gases are being devised for introduction in Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and also at a state level in the USA.

An Action Agenda was developed to enhance actions taken by APEC economies in other international fora. The key initiatives of the Action Agenda were a commitment by APEC members to a target of reducing energy intensity (the energy used per unit of GDP) by at least 25 per cent by 2030, using 2005 as a base year. On forests, members adopted an aspirational goal to increase forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares by 2020. This forestry commitment would store approximately 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to about 11 per cent of annual global greenhouse emissions. Regional collaborative research on low emissions technology and energy sources, especially clean fossil energy and renewable energy sources, is to receive a boost through the establishment of an Asia–Pacific Network for Energy Technology (APNet). APNet will be inaugurated at a major energy research conference in 2008.

Pursuit of the Sydney Declaration will be reviewed by senior officials and leaders at the next annual APEC meetings in Peru in November 2008.   

For further detail on APEC, climate change and the 15th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting Sydney in September 2007 see:

Further reading:

Sophie Morris, 'Howard vents $70m emissions plan', Australian Financial Review, 3 September 2007, p. 6

'Report details promising C02 fixes', Canberra Times, 3 September 2007, p. 2.

15 July, 2010

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