Skip navigation

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation

Leaders of the largest economies in the southern hemisphere committed to work towards an 'ambitious outcome' from the global conference on tackling climate change being held in Copenhagen next month.


In their communique issued after a two-day meeting that ended on 15 November, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) said that man-made climate change was 'one of the biggest global challenges'.


They added: 'We reaffirm our commitment to tackle the threat of climate change and work towards an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen, within the objective, provisions and principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


'Global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will need to be accompanied by measures, including financial assistance and technology transfer to developing economies for their adaptation to the adverse impact of climate change.'


However APEC did not commit to a specific target for cutting harmful emissions. 'This is not an occasion for negotiating climate change,' Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore's prime minister and chair of the summit said in a press conference. 'This is APEC and there is a declaration of intent in good faith and negotiations and the formal commitments will be done in the UN process, which is leading to Copenhagen.'


According to media reports, APEC leaders pulled back from putting a time-frame to reach the 50% emission cut target by 2050.


Asked about that issue at the press conference, Mr Lee said: 'We are leading up to Copenhagen and I am sure the countries will be reserving some of their cards and particularly the bottom cards to be shown at the right moment. So I do not think they have shown their final position yet.'


US President Obama and Danish PM Rasmussen call for political agreement


US President Obama and Danish PM Rasmussen commented at APEC that Copenhagen was doable and would likely to produce a political agreement.


In his speech to APEC leaders, the Danish Prime Minister said: 'With the Copenhagen deadline fast approaching, the question on everybody’s lips is: can we make it? My answer is yes. It is absolutely doable: If we focus on what we can agree, a strong, comprehensive and global Agreement is within reach.'


Meanwhile US President Barack Obama also added his voice to view that Copenhagen will produce a politically-binding agreement rather than a legal treaty, according to reports.


There was an 'assessment by the leaders that it was unrealistic to expect a full, internationally legally binding agreement to be negotiated between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days,' . Michael Froman, Obama's deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, told Bloomberg. They thought 'it was important that Copenhagen be an important step forward.'


According to the FT, Mr Froman said that Mr Obama had told fellow leaders they should 'not make the perfect the enemy of the good'.


The UK Government says that Copenhagen must deliver a comprehensive politically binding agreement and set out a very clear timetable to a legally binding treaty. A spokesperson said: 'We want maximum ambition from Copenhagen and that must include firm numbers and commitments. There’s no weakening or lowering of ambition and we’re continuing to push at Copenhagen for a comprehensive politically binding agreement, under the UNFCCC.


'But we’re also clear that the Copenhagen agreement must set out a very clear timetable to a legally binding treaty which must be agreed as soon as possible and without delay.'


APEC outcomes


Environmental campaigners said the outcome from APEC highlighted the need for world leaders to make tangible progress ahead of the Copenhagen conference that begins on 7 December.


Diane McFadzien, a spokesperson for WWF, told the Financial Times that APEC leaders had 'missed a great opportunity to move the world closer to a fair, ambitious and binding agreement'. She added that leaders had to 'take the bull by the horns, and finally tackle the difficult questions, instead of constantly avoiding them'.

In their communique, APEC leaders committed themselves to take action in a number of areas including:

  • enhancing work on meeting the 'aspirational goal' in the Sydney Declaration of increasing forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares of all types of forests by 2020;
  • supporting efforts in the Copenhagen negotiations to agree on actions to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing economies;
  • ensuring that efforts to address climate change are consistent with their international trade obligations;
  • developing and implementing a set of concrete actions to support sustainable growth in the region, advance work to increase use and dissemination of environmental goods and services;
  • phasing out over the medium term fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption; and
  • taking steps to facilitate the diffusion of climate-friendly technologies, including through economic and technical cooperation and capacity ilding activities.


APEC is made up of 21 countries including the US and Russia as well as the largest and fast-growing emerging economies in the southern hemisphere. It accounts for over half of all world trade and 60% of global GDP.