‘The Sydney Declaration.’ Has a nice statesman-like ring to it doesn’t it?

But the Prime Minister’s promised APEC climate change declaration is looking hollower by the day.

Head of The Australia Institute Clive Hamilton told Crikey, “Howard will still hope to get some domestic traction on the issue, but the Sydney Declaration will be no more than a wry footnote in the history of international climate change negotiations.”

Many key players have already dismissed the PM’s pronouncements and instead are looking ahead to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bali this December.

“The Prime Minister’s grand plan for APEC has been seriously deflated over the last two or three months as it has confronted the realities of international climate politics,” says Hamilton. “The big boys — China, India, US and, behind the scenes, Europe, have made it clear that Australia is a bit player.”

But Erwin Jackson of The Climate Institute says that APEC could still play an important role in “building momentum towards an effective Bali meeting”. Provided the Prime Minister goes further than the recently leaked draft APEC declaration, that is.

The leaked draft only suggests an “aspirational target” for emissions reductions.

“To try and set back international negotiations 10 years when we only have 10 years to turn around global green house pollution would be extremely counterproductive,” Jackson told Crikey. 

But for a real indication of how half hearted the APEC climate change talks are appearing, take a look at the proposal to reduce energy intensity in APEC countries. Going by the draft, Jackson says that the proposed energy efficiency targets “…represent at best a business as usual path.”

The draft APEC Declaration includes a proposal for APEC countries to work towards reducing energy intensity by at least 25% by 2030, or about 1% per year over the next 25 years. The average annual improvement in energy intensity over the last decade across the 18 APEC countries is 1.2%:

Projections of future energy intensity to 2030 for major APEC economies show expected annual improvements of between 1.6% and 2.6% per year, giving an average annual improvement for these five major economies as 1.9%:

Jackson says that “China has set domestic targets to improve intensity that are more challenging than the target proposed for APEC. In China the 11th Five Year Plan includes a headline goal to improve the energy efficiency of economic growth by 20% between 2005 and 2010. China has more ambitious energy targets than the majority of APEC countries, including Australia and the US.”

Maybe we should be looking past our Prime Minister and on to China for the vision thing, because at this rate, the Sydney Declaration isn’t going to cut it.