Australia, China join forces on coal

Australia, China join forces on coal

Australia and China will work together to balance China’s insatiable need for energy resources with growing concern about coal’s impact on the global environment.

The move to establish a clean coal technology working group came as Japan announced at the East Asia Summit in Cebu a $2.5 billion package to help its Asian neighbours develop energy-saving technology and find ways to ease the region’s dependence on oil.

The summit brings together the 10 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations with China, Japan, India, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

The East Asia Summit, portrayed as the poor stepchild of the ASEAN Plus 3 (China, Japan and South Korea) after its first meeting in 2005, ended yesterday with a new sense of purpose.

“I got the sense that the East Asia Summit had well and truly arrived,” Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.

“People today were talking about what it should do, rather than marvelling at that it had happened.”

Mr Howard discussed the new clean coal initiative after a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Cebu yesterday.

“China is at a different stage of development than Australia, we have to understand that,” Mr Howard said. “We have grown our economy and productivity off the back of coal, which is now regarded as emitting far too many greenhouse gases.

“That doesn’t alter the fact if we approach this in a constructive fashion and try to work together, pool our experience, pool our knowledge, it can be better for both countries.”

The aims of the working group include sharing knowledge on clean coal, identifying areas where the use of clean coal technologies can be enhanced, and identifying joint clean coal technology projects.

The clean coal issue and ongoing negotiations for an Australia-China free trade agreement dominated Mr Howard’s talks with Mr Wen.

Mr Howard affirmed Australia’s commitment to a trade pact with China, now the world’s third largest economy after Japan and the United States.

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