CANBERRA (Reuters) - Six of the world's top polluters meet in Sydney this week to promote clean energy technology as a way to tackle climate change without sacrificing economic growth.
The United States, Japan, China, India, Australia and South Korea will hold the first meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate -- a pact they say will complement, not rival, the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases.
But unlike Kyoto, the six members will not be backing fixed targets for cutting emissions from burning fossil fuels and some analysts expect any resolution to be vague.
Government sources told Reuters that the partnership plans to create a fund to help develop cleaner energy technologies, which Australia would kickstart with about A$100 million ($75 million).
The partnership will also be counting on private support to develop and deliver technologies such as clean coal and renewable energy and will meet some of the world's top energy companies, including BHP Billiton and ExxonMobil, during the two-day talks.
"It's a meeting with the political and business clout to make a real difference," Australian Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said.
But Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell warned that there would be no "silver bullet" from the first meeting.
"I think ultimately the test of the success of this partnership will be over a number of years and will ultimately be whether we can save the climate," Campbell told Australian radio.
"DEAL TO DO NOTHING"
Critics have branded the partnership, which meets from Wednesday, as simply serving the needs of industrialised nations.
"As might be expected from a pact between six of the world's biggest coal exporters and users, this appears to be a deal to do nothing," Greenpeace spokeswoman Catherine Fitzpatrick said.
According to figures released by the partnership, the six members account for 45 percent of the world's population, 48 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and 48 percent of the world's energy consumption.
Analysts and green groups predict clean coal technology, which uses a variety of methods to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases harmful to the atmosphere, will be a key focus of the partnership.
Four of the six members are heavily reliant on coal for energy and the International Energy Agency expects a 43 per cent increase in global coal use from 2000 to 2020.
Australia, for instance, generates most of its electricity from coal-fired power stations.
Australia and the United States say cleaner technology is a better approach than setting targets to curb emissions of gases many scientists blame for rising global temperatures.
A panel of scientists that advises the United Nations has said world temperatures are likely to rise between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius (2.5-10.4F) by 2100, triggering more frequent floods, droughts, melting of icecaps and driving thousands of species to extinction.
The United States and Australia are the only developed nations outside the Kyoto Protocol, which went into force in February and obliges about 40 developed countries to cut their emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during 2008-2012.
Washington and Canberra have said Kyoto could threaten economic growth and that excluding large developing nations from meeting emissions targets did not make sense.
China and India have ratified Kyoto, but as developing nations they do not have to meet its obligations in the protocol's first phase that ends in 2012. Both fear emissions curbs would restrict their surging economies.
Beijing said the new pact would not overshadow Kyoto.
The conference is not shaping up as "a typical U.N. meeting" in which developing countries look for a handout, the chairman of the Australian Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Centre in Melbourne, Alan Oxley, said.
"In the preliminary discussions, the traditional (money) request from developing countries has not occurred -- we're talking principally about India and China -- and that the focus has actually been on collaboration on technology."
(Additional reporting by BEIJING bureau)