CTV.ca News Staff
Updated: Sun. Jun. 3 2007 10:35 PM ET
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has arrived in Europe, where he will likely back the U.S. view on climate change that promises to create a rift at the upcoming G8 Summit in Germany.
The G8 nations have been wrestling with finding a climate change solution that works for everyone, but there is a growing gap between the position of the U.S. and most other countries.
The U.S. rejects ambitious greenhouse gas-reduction targets proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Germans want to see a resolution holding the rise in global temperature to two degrees Celsius, the level at which scientists say damage to the planet can be contained.
Doing so will require a cut in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, say the Germans and most other European nations.
U.S. President George W. Bush rejects that target. He wants to make sure that any new deal includes China, India and other emerging economies. He also wants to take the negotiating process away from the United Nations and allow countries to set individual targets.
Harper has indicated he hopes to play the role of broker between the two sides to try and find a solution that works for everyone.
Environment Minister John Baird, who travelled with Harper to Germany, told CTV’s Question Period not to expect any major developments out of the summit. The G-8 meets from June 6 to 8 in the coastal town of Heiligendamm.
Constructive role
Canada’s goal is to play a “constructive” role in convincing the major greenhouse gas-emitting nations to working together.
That’s the message Harper will be bringing when he meets with Merkel, who is hosting the summit, Baird said.
“I think he’ll say that it’s absolutely essential we get all of the major emitters coming together to reduce greenhouse gases,” Baird said. “That we’re not going to solve this problem in a few short days in Germany — this is going to be something that we’re going to have to work at, as folks at the UN have said, over the next two to three years. And we’re committed to playing a constructive role.”
The next round of climate talks is set for Bali, Indonesia in December. Some G8 leaders want a deadline of late 2009 for a replacement deal for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The U.S. refused to ratify Kyoto and Canada’s Conservative government has rejected the target of a six per cent cut in emissions below 1990 levels by 2012.
“No other industrialized country that’s part of the Kyoto process has given up on its targets the way that Canada has,” Aaron Freeman of Environmental Defence told CTV Newsnet.
The Conservatives — who opposed ratifying Kyoto in the first place — have blamed the Liberals for allowing GHG emissions in Canada to rise more than 35 per cent above the country’s Kyoto target.
Some analysts have suggested Harper will align Canada with the U.S. position. Baird, however, said Canada will work to ensure no nation is “isolated” from talks about a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.
“If the United States or China or India or any of these growing economies are left out, that would be bad for the environment. It wouldn’t be an effective plan,” Baird said.
China and India both signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. As developing countries, they weren’t expected to cut emissions in the first phase, but were expected to accept reductions in the post-Kyoto treaty.
While China is poised to become the biggest total GHG emitter this year, the U.S. and Canada still emit far more GHGs on a per-capita basis.
A group of 16 Asian countries argued earlier this week that the burden of cutting emissions should still fall on the developed world.
The critics
Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Ujjal Dosanjh said Canada has lost credibility on environmental issues after backing away from its Kyoto targets.
“Canada has to be a leader to be able to be a broker,” Dosanjh said on Question Period.
“Even on China and India, how can Canada say to them, ‘We’re not doing very much, what we’re doing has been called a fraud by Al Gore and has been panned by David Suzuki, but we want to be an honest broker, we want you at the table.'”
New Democrat MP Paul Dewar said Canada’s performance at the summit represents a make-or-break moment for the government.