Foreign ministers from Asia and Europe disagreed on Tuesday in the German city of Hamburg on how to respond to climate change, with China telling the EU that nations had "common but differing responsibilities."
Fighting climate change requires political consensus on an international level
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who chaired the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), confirmed that Europe and Asia had failed to agree on the need to set global, binding restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol runs out.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, and his Chinese colleague Yang Jiechi
"There were disagreements on setting binding targets," Steinmeier told the press conference after the two-day meeting was brought to a conclusion.
He said, however, that European and Asian nations agreed there should be a follow-up "regime" to the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gases after 2012.
A chairman's statement issued after the meeting said negotiations on this "should be completed by 2009 at the latest."
But Mitsuo Sakaba, spokesman for Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, said Tokyo disagreed with the 2009 deadline, and believed it was more important to include the countries outside the Kyoto Protocol -- the United States, China and India -- in the next accord.
Sakaba said issuing a chairman's statement was the usual way to end an ASEM meeting and the 16 Asian and 27 European Union ministers or their deputies had reached "not agreement, but acceptance" of the text.
Beijing said it wanted to play a "constructive role"
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said as the meeting closed that climate change had to be seen against a background of "sustainable development" and that China would play "a constructive role."
He stressed, however, that the main cuts should come from the industrialized nations, with emergent nations allowed to increase emissions, though more slowly than they increase their wealth.
He said this meant the international community had "common but differing responsibilities" in responding to climate change.
"The developed countries have a long history of emissions and we hope the developed countries will make further, deeper cuts," he said.
China is a signatory of Kyoto, the first international agreement on slashing emissions, but it has so far been exempt from binding targets because it is a developing nation.
Japan and European countries have been called for rapid, deep cuts in world emissions of greenhouse gases. Tokyo believes emissions can be cut by 50 per cent by 2050.
A prelude to the G8 meeting
Merkel is not likely to make a breakthrough at the G8 summit
The showdown on how best to fight global warming comes just a week ahead of the Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, to which Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited both China, India and other leading emerging nations.
The G8 member states are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
Together, India and China will by 2015 produce more greenhouse gases than the United States and Merkel has warned that a new pact to replace Kyoto would be doomed unless they signed up.
India said on Monday it would not be tied to emission targets because this will slow economic growth and hinder its efforts to lift a large part of its population out of poverty.
The Asian stance comes as another setback for Merkel on the environment after Washington rejected parts of a draft declaration which she wants G8 leaders to adopt at the June 6-8 summit.
Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest has been extended for yet another year
The chairman's statement issued at the end of the ASEM included an appeal to Myanmar to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 61, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was told last week she faced a further year under house arrest, diplomats from Europe said.
Many European nations were affronted last week by the extension of her detention from four to five years.
There was "a frank exchange of views on Myanmar" at ASEM, the chairman's statement said.
Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win was among delegates attending the meeting.