By Rob Taylor
Wed Nov 1, 1:54 AM ET
Australia, a major coal exporter and producer of greenhouse gases, said on Wednesday it would use new technologies to make fossil-fuels cleaner and tackle climate change, but continued to reject the Kyoto Protocol. Prime Minister John Howard said Kyoto was mere symbolism as it did not include major greenhouse emitters such as India, the U.S. and China. He said an alliance of the world's biggest polluters -- Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States -- called the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, offered a more practical way to fight climate change. "Symbolism will not clean up the air, symbolism will not clean up greenhouse gas emissions, practical methods will. The thing that matters is doing things," Howard said. Under the Asia-Pacific Partnership formed in 2005, Howard said Australia would spend A$60 million ($46 million) on 42 projects, such as solar and clean coal, which separates greenhouse gases from coal-fired power station emissions for disposal underground or in water. The government last week said it would spend A$75 million on the world's largest solar power plant, which would start operating in 2013. Howard has also said nuclear energy may one day be an option for Australia. Howard's announcement came a day after a British report warned that failure to tackle climate change could see the world economy facing a 1830s-style Depression. Australia, along with the United States, refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, arguing it would unfairly impact the country's fossil fuel-reliant economy. Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter. Howard said Kyoto favored British and European interests. "We have to be careful in what we do that we serve the interests of Australia. The interest of Europe and the interests of Australia are not the same," he said. Elliott Morley, a former British Environment Minister and U.K. Special Envoy on Climate, said the opposition of Australia and the United States to Kyoto was disappointing. "If we all take that attitude, then there'll be no progress at all and we will just sleepwalk to oblivion," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. Environmentalists are critical of the Asia Pacific Partnership, which represents almost half of the world's greenhouse emissions, arguing its actions are voluntary. "Until Australia commits to global action and indicates that it is prepared to enter a regime of enforceable targets for the period beyond Kyoto, the prime minister can't be taken seriously," Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne said. Kyoto obliges about 40 nations to cut emissions by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Australia, the world's 10th largest greenhouse gas emitter, negotiated a rise in emissions, setting a Kyoto target of limiting emissions to 108 percent of 1990 levels.