SINGAPORE, Nov 21 (Reuters) Asian leaders today put aside discord over Myanmar to hammer out a common position on climate change at their annual summit, which is also seeking to free up trade and investment in the region.
The Association of South East Asian Nations is meeting leaders from Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand in the annual ''ASEAN+6'' meeting.
The group, which includes some of the world's fastest growing economies and biggest polluters, was due to issue a declaration on climate change, which they will use as a basis for negotiations at next month's UN-sponsored talks in Bali.
Japan is proposing to cut Asian emissions by giving incentives to developing-nation polluters, while China's premier Wen Jiabao vowed to cut energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 per cent in five years.
China's energy efficiency is one-tenth of leader Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will pledge more than 1.8 billion dollar in loans for environmental projects in Asia during the meeting to finance projects such as sewage disposal and sulphur dioxide scrubbing from power plants, Japanese media say.
Analysts say Japan is trying to form an Asian consensus that would be the basis for negotiations at the talks in Bali that aim to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, whose emissions targets end in 2012.
''The climate change declaration coming out of the East Asia Summit will make the Bali meeting easier,'' Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. ''There has been a turning of the tide in China and India's position -- they're saying yes we need to do something to stabilise emissions.'' He said negotiations would still take a couple of years.
MONEY IN THE TREES Japan, as host to next year's Group of Eight summit, where global warming is expected to be a top agenda item, is keen to be seen taking leadership on the issue.
But the world's fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter and the only country in Asia with a Kyoto target is itself still far from hitting its goal, while the world's top two polluters, the United States and China, have no caps under Kyoto.
''Other countries import a lot of products from China, so the notion is that they should be responsible for some of the emissions made by China,'' said Yonghun Jung of the Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre in Tokyo.
Indonesia's emissions may also be the world's third highest, according to a World Bank report, with the ASEAN member mobilising other rainforest nations ahead of Bali as it hopes to earn over 13 billion dollar by preserving its forests as a carbon sink.
''The weakness of the Kyoto Protocol has been that developing countries are not compensated for avoiding deforestation, so I think they should be given incentives,'' said Indonesian presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal.
UN envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari was planning to brief the East Asia Summit on Myanmar, but Myanmar opposed that and Gambari is talking to individual delegations instead.
''Progress on Burma...has been as slow as glue up a hill,'' said Downer. ''Burma needs a dose of good economic management.'' ASEAN is negotiating free trade with all ASEAN+6 members, with a China-ASEAN deal possible by 2010. But a deal with India has stalled over agricultural tariffs, while all bets are off on deals with the United States, the EU and Australia since they have sanctions on Myanmar.
''The agreement with China is the most advanced and nearing completion,'' said Rodolfo Severino, former Secretary-General of ASEAN from 1998-2002.
The new ASEAN charter calls for human rights and democracy, but offers little in the way of enforcement. It also sets out an an economic blueprint with timetables for trade reform.
REUTERS SG SSC1329