The United States yesterday announced it would rely on the private sector to tackle global warming by devising more fuel-efficient technologies.
At the inaugural meeting of an international alliance to rival the Kyoto process, the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate demonstrated the support of the US, Australia, Japan, China, South Korea and India and dozens of energy corporations.
Environmentalists, however, dismissed the conference as a political stunt and warned that no technological quick fix could resolve the problem of climate change.
Speaking before the opening session in Sydney, Samuel Bodman, the US energy secretary, said it was better for industry to devise more efficient technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rather than impose binding targets that hamper economic development.
"I believe that the people who run the private sector, who run these companies, they do have children, they do have grandchildren, they do live and breathe in the world," Mr Bodman declared.
"Those of us in government believe it is the job of government to create an environment such that the private sector can really do its work. It's really going to be the private sector, the companies ... that are ultimately going to be the solvers of this problem."
The six participating states - who account for 45% of the world's population and nearly half of the world's greenhouse gas emissions - are expected to announce a series of measures aimed at developing cleaner technologies.
Among schemes under discussion will be "geosequestration", a process for capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground, and "clean coal", a technology for treating fossil fuel so that it releases fewer harmful gases.
Expansion of civil nuclear programmes is advocated by the Americans. Australia is expected to announce a $100m (£43m) contribution to a new technology development fund.
Erwin Jackson of the Australian Conservation Foundation warned: "Emissions from Australia and the United States are spiralling out of control. We need rapid deployment of clean energy such as wind and solar today. If the conference just throws research dollars to the coal industry to clean up their act in 15 to 20 years we've missed an opportunity."
Protesters outside the conference buried a replica of the Australian prime minister, John Howard, in coal to symbolise what they claimed was his preference for industry profits over climate-change solutions.
Japan, China and India have signed up to the Kyoto protocols, but the latter two countries were considered developing countries when they joined and are not bound by emission targets.
At a UN global warming conference in Canada last month the US declined to join an agreement signed by more than 150 countries to open talks on mandatory post-2012 reductions in greenhouse gases.
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