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Opposition To Usurp Canadian Position At Kyoto Talks

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
by Michel Comte
Ottawa (AFP) Nov 9, 2006
Opposition leaders threatened Thursday to hijack Ottawa's role at upcoming Kyoto Protocol talks, saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government has not represented Canadians' climate change fears. Liberal leader Bill Graham and separatist Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe said they would send representatives to Nairobi next week to urge delegates to set stricter greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in phase two of the pact.

The two opposition parties have no official standing at the summit.

But, Duceppe said: "Our spokespeople will give our position to other countries and reporters. We will not shut up and line up behind the government and pretend that all of Canada and Quebec agree with (its) position."

The unusual move, they said, is justified because Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is working "to weaken the goals (of Kyoto) and stall negotiations" on reducing carbon emissions that cause global warming.

"Instead of urging hold-out countries to work within Kyoto, she has promised anti-Kyoto positions and rhetoric on the world stage. She has become a climate change anti-leader," Graham told reporters.

"The Conservatives' climate-change agenda is worse than embarrassing, worse than silly, it's dangerous to the future of the planet," he said. "Canadians want our government to be a leader, a world leader on this issue."

Canada had agreed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to six percent below 1990 levels by 2012, but a recent environmental audit found emissions had instead increased by 26.6 percent.

Ambrose, who will travel to Nairobi next week, introduced a bill in mid-October to reduce Canada's CO2 emissions by 45-65 percent by 2050, based on 2003 emissions. But it was widely panned.

The draft legislation would also allow emissions to rise until 2020.

Harper had agreed last week to consider amendments to the Clean Air Act after New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton said he might otherwise try to topple the government. Layton proposed deeper CO2 cuts.

But the Conservatives were defiant in Parliament Thursday.

"We have said to the international community, we are committed to the Kyoto Protocol, committed to working with them, but we cannot meet unachievable, unreachable targets," an exasperated Ambrose said.

Outside, she added: "Canada wants to go into this process being open-minded, being constructive."

Opposition parties want Ottawa to adhere to its short-term targets; commit to stronger, binding targets for Kyoto's second phase; promote limiting to one year a revision period of the accord to avoid delays in adopting stringent reduction targets for the second phase; and help developing countries.

"The changes that are taking place (in the Arctic), which represents one third of our land mass, are so dramatic and will so change the sociological conditions of the people there," Graham said. "It will be extremely important to get a handle on it."

A senior official said Canada would seek a "comprehensive review" of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol when representatives of 165 countries meet in Nairobi to discuss the next phase of the pact.

Ambrose has said large polluters such as India and China must accept emissions reduction targets in the next phase of the accord.

But Graham and Duceppe suggested that India and China would not accept targets in phase two of the treaty if Canada does not meet its own phase one target.

They added that a review of the pact of the sort urged by Ambrose would "mean the end of the international treaty, or at the very least unjustifiably delay the implementation of phase two."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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