Asia-Pacific leaders meeting in Sydney agreed a climate deal at the week-end that includes an “aspirational” goal to restrain the rise of greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change.

The only problem is that although China and the US, two of the world’s biggest polluters, are among the 21 nations that have signed the statement, it contains no firm commitments.

Although Australian Prime Minister John Howard called it “a very important milestone” towards an international deal, green groups were more critical. Greenpeace said the agreement was a “distraction” rather than a “declaration”.

A spokeswoman for Greenpeace said: “Without supporting binding targets for developed countries, which is where the rubber really hits the road on climate action, it looks like a political stunt by John Howard.”