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US: Asia to take action to reduce greenhouse gases by 2030

Asia must increase renewable energy use, improve coal-fired power plant efficiency and switch to biofuels to reduce a quarter of their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, a U.S. government report said Tuesday.

However, the report from the U.S. Agency for International Development did not mention setting mandatory greenhouse gas emission cuts, which European countries and many environmentalists say should be part of the solution.

Failing to implement cleaner technologies will result in heat-trapping greenhouse gases more than tripling by 2030 for much of Asia, said the USAID report, the latest dire warning that inaction could be catastrophic for the planet.

"This report helps prioritize the best options to start addressing climate change and energy challenges in developing Asia today," said Olivier Carduner, director of USAID's regional mission in Bangkok. "The options are based on proven, existing technologies that will help slow carbon dioxide emission, cut costs and reduce pollution."

While echoing some of the findings reached early this month by the U.N.-affiliated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the USAID report was dismissed by some environmentalists, who have accused the U.S. - the world's biggest polluter - of attempting to avoid international action on climate change.

The U.S. and Australia are the only two industrialized countries that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for parties to cut emissions to about 5 percent below their 1990 level by 2012. The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush fears mandatory cuts could hurt the American economy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel - who currently holds the rotating presidency of both the G-8 bloc of industrialized nations and the European Union - wants the G-8's June meeting to agree to targets for cuts in greenhouse gas output, and a timetable for an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Along with the United States, two of the other big greenhouse gas emitters, China and India, have come out against mandatory caps because they said such measures would adversely impact their economies. Instead, they have championed many of the measures endorsed in the USAID report.

"We have taken effective measures to reduce climate change," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters, in response to a question about why Chinese has opposed caps.

"We have taken a series of targeted measures in this regard with visible effects achieved," she said. "We have intensified the efficiency of energy consumption and developed low carbon energy and changed the structure of energy consumption."

The USAID report called on Asia to increase tenfold its use of renewable energy, including wind and biomass, the burning of organic materials like dead vegetation or animal waste.

It also urged that energy use in buildings be reduced by 30 percent, coal-fired power plant efficiency be improved by 30 percent, and 25 percent of oil used in the transport sector be replaced with biofuels.

Utilizing some of the available clean-energy options could help the six largest Asian developing nations cut 3.5 billion tons from their annual emissions by 2030 - or 25 percent of the total projected increase above 2002 levels, it said.

The environmental group Greenpeace criticized the report for not recommending mandatory emission cuts and accepting the notion that coal will be the primary energy source over the next two decades.

"I have a feeling most countries will ignore this report because its coming from the United States," said Shailendra Yashwant, a regional climate campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "It reeks of hypocrisy and pointing fingers instead of solving problems at home."

Carduner countered that the purpose of the report was "to look at what solutions would make the biggest difference in the shortest amount of time and at the least costs."

Weerawat Chantanakome, executive director of the ASEAN Center For Energy in Jakarta, agreed the report offers a practical roadmap to balancing energy needs and environmental implications.

"In order to satisfy their energy use, it will necessary to spend US$6 trillion (euro4.5 trillion) over 25 years to build energy infrastructure for the region," he said. "Unless this infrastructure is built with efficiency and conservation in mind, we will waste a huge opportunity."

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