The way it was announced - apparently a suprise to the international community - certainly contrasts with the painstaking multilateral approach that has surrounded Kyoto and the G8.
Things to consider:
- the parternship includes the world's four largest coal producers, if not the largest (Australia, China, India and the United States). Three of these countries are also its largest consumers and likely to burn coal come hell or highwater so technology to deal with the consequences is needed.
- Two members of the partnership - Japan and South Korea - are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol. It's true that Korea is "non-Annex I state" which means it has not undertaken to meet specific targets; but Japan does have targets to meet (albeit inadequate to the challenge - but then so is almost everything so far), and as the world's second largest economy by some distance it carries some weight that, with an additional finger on the scale from S Korea, may help to draw the "techno-optimist" and "timetables-and-targets" camps together.
- For a US administration characterised by unilateralism and realpolitik (another notable example in recent days being the nuclear deal with India), this may be as good as it gets. The partnership may facilitate technical progress - and US companies such as GE (the country's largest by market capitalisation) will lap up the opportunities (including nuclear ones) and thereby afford some space for those working towards making targets and timetables a little bit more achievable (e.g. beyond 2012).