Canada backs breakaway six-nation climate group
OTTAWA, Apr 26 (Reuters) Canada's new Conservative government, which is openly skeptical about the Kyoto climate change protocol, has said it backs a breakaway group of six nations that favor a voluntary approach to cutting emissions of greenhouse gases.
The Conservatives -- whose power base is in the energy-rich western province of Alberta -- say Canada cannot meet its Kyoto targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Environment Minister Rona Ambrose yesterday said she favors the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which groups the United States, Australia, Japan, China, India and South Korea. The pact looks at how to develop technologies to reduce emissions rather than having specific reduction targets.
''We've been looking at the Asia-Pacific Partnership for a number of months now because the key principles around (it) are very much in line with where our government wants to go,'' Ambrose told reporters.
''It's a very interesting group and I think they're doing things that we're very interested in participating in further down the road,'' she said after meeting two senior US government officials who deal with the environment.
Under Kyoto, Canada is committed to cutting its emissions by 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. The latest data show emissions are running 24.4 per cent above 1990 levels and these will rise as oil-rich tar sands are developed in Alberta.
The Conservatives -- who ousted the Liberals after 12 years in office in the Jan. 23 election -- say they want a made-in-Canada plan to tackling climate change. Earlier this month Ottawa scrapped 15 research programs related to the Kyoto protocol.
Environmentalists said the comments by Ambrose about the partnership -- which is being heavily promoted by Washington -- show the Canadian government is not serious about tackling climate change.
''There isn't anything that will happen because of the partnership. It relies entirely on voluntary action and the hope that industry will come forward,'' said John Bennett of the Sierra Club.
''Canada is being enthusiastic about a meaningless public relations stunt by the U.S. government when it should be talking about the importance of working ... on a program that has real targets,'' he told Reuters.
Ambrose said the six-nation grouping is important because it engages major polluters China and India, which are not bound by Kyoto targets.
''Right now under the protocol there is no commitment for a number of countries to do that. So that's the crux of the issue for Canada,'' she said.
The previous Liberal government planned to meet part of its Kyoto target by buying emissions credits abroad, a course of action that Ambrose ruled out.
''(The government's climate change plan) will promote investment in Canadian communities and not investment overseas by purchasing international credits where there is very little accountability,'' she said.
Last week, a group of 90 top environmental experts wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying that unless he moved quickly to tackle global warming, the country's economy and quality of life would increasingly suffer.
REUTERS KD PM1127