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March 29, 2007

Canada's approach on Kyoto criticized

GATINEAU, Que.–A leading international climate change crusader slammed Canada for its lack of action in fulfilling the country's commitments to reduce greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol.

Australian scientist and writer Tim Flannery, who has issued dire warnings about the potential calamities of climate change, said he is disappointed by Canada's approach to Kyoto, the treaty that sets out targets to reduce the greenhouse gases causing global warming.

In 2005, the federal Liberals set out a $5 billion plan to meet Kyoto targets but the Conservative government has said the Kyoto goals are now unattainable. As a result, critics have charged that Canada has forsaken its leadership role in international talks on future Kyoto targets.

Flannery told a conference on progressive governance that the original emissions-reduction goals set by Canada were naively optimistic.

"And then, in recent times, for individuals to suggest this failure of the process is a good reason to walk away from negotiations has been even more damaging," he added.

The conference was put on by the Crossing Boundaries National Council, a not-for-profit policy forum, and Canada 2020, a think-tank on economic and social issues.

Flannery said only concerted action by governments around the world can successfully address the long-term challenge of fighting climate change while avoiding severe global economic and political strains.

"There's a real need for governments to attack this through clearly articulated targets with properly planned strategies to get you from A to B. That's what's been lacking in the world."

He urged Canadians, working with their government, to put plans in place to meet Kyoto and "to understand what your obligations will be as individuals (and) industries."

Environment Minister John Baird, who spoke before Flannery, maintained that Canada has not backed away from its leadership role in the international climate change effort.

"Internationally, we're strongly engaged," he remarked, saying that Canada is working with the world's industrial countries plus emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India to plan for emissions reduction targets after the first phase of Kyoto ends in 2012.

Baird said the government is about to bring out "aggressive" regulations for all industrial sectors that will reduce greenhouse gases and air pollutants.

A revised Clean Air Act, forged by the opposition majority on the Commons environment committee, will contain a commitment to international carbon trading under Kyoto.

The opposition parties also appeared on track to include a reaffirmation of the Kyoto emissions-reduction targets that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly rejected as unachievable.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who also attended the conference, said the Liberals failed to live up to their Kyoto commitments and the Conservatives' environmental package is a political gimmick.

"In the absence of a commitment to meet Kyoto targets ... what we're getting from the Harper government is a build-up of greenhouse gases and no commitment to global responsibilities disguised in a public relations campaign to confuse Canadians," she said.

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