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Posted on  

May 16, 2002

Canadian Plan Moves Toward Kyoto Ratification

OTTAWA, - The Canadian government has issued a four-part action plan that would allow the country to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol (news - web sites) on climate change but Canada is still trying to engineer a deal for major breaks in its emissions limits.

The discussion paper, leaked Tuesday and released Wednesday, shows that the government's most favoured option is to trade "clean energy credits" with other countries, a plan that has, so far, been resisted by the European Union (news - web sites) (EU).

"The question is no longer should Canada act," Environment Minister David Anderson said at a news conference Wednesday. "It is very much a question of how Canada should act. "So today, the government of Canada is releasing a discussion paper that identifies a range of options that will lay the foundation for discussion with Canadians about what road we will take."

The Cabinet is split on Kyoto ratification. Anderson has worked for four years to come up with a plan on greenhouse gas emissions that would conform to the Kyoto Protocol. Other ministers and government officials have been sceptical of Kyoto, with one senior minister saying that global warming (news - web sites), if managed properly, could be beneficial to Canada.

"We can and we must try to slow the pace of climate change, but we can't stop it," Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal said at a conference on navigation at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Tuesday.

"A longer shipping season could lead to greater economic prosperity,'' Dhaliwal said, adding that ships could soon begin using the Northwest Passage in Canada's rapidly-warming arctic as a link between the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Canada could then "take advantage of the opportunity side" of climate change, Dhaliwal said.

The government, however, maintains the position that climate change is a threat to Canada. The western Canadian plains, a major cattle and grain producing area, is entering its third year of drought; record-low water levels on the Great Lakes have forced ships to travel with reduced loads; and parts of Canada's arctic are experiencing melting of permafrost that has been frozen since the beginning of the last Ice Age.

The government's four options include:

- A broad range of industries that emit greenhouse gases would be forced to cut their emissions by buying emission permits. The government expects gasoline and energy prices would increase and some energy-intensive industries would face financial trouble.

- This is the most expensive approach for the Canadian federal government. Industries and consumers would have to meet reduction targets, and governments would help by pumping money into Canada's poor-quality public-transit systems and renewable energy. Consumers would have to pay higher parking fees and tolls on highway.

- Heavy polluters like oil and metal refineries, oil sands producers and pulp and paper mills would be forced to curb emissions output. The rest of the emission reductions would come through cuts achieved through targeted measures and international pollution permit purchases by both government and business. Of the options analyzed, this would likely have the biggest impact on the economy, reducing Canada's gross domestic product by about 0.6 percent.

- This is the government's preferred option, according to the discussion paper. It is a modified version of Option 3 that sees more firms get involved in reducing emissions and gives breaks to fast-growing industries. Regions and sectors would be able to buy clean-energy export credits from other countries. Like Option 3, this option strives to avoid pushing up prices of fossil fuel such as gasoline.

Sierra Club (news - web sites) of Canada spokesperson John Bennett, who oversees the group's lobbying on climate change issues, said he believes the Canadian government is still hoping for a break from the European Union on Kyoto limits.

"I have been convinced all along that the talk of Canada not ratifying Kyoto has just been a gambit to pry concessions from the European Union," Bennett told IPS Wednesday. "And that's pretty much the consensus in the Canadian environmental community.

"Now, finally, they've put something on the table. It's a series of plans that have some flaws, but are still, for the most part, workable."

Bennett said the Canadian government wants to have a Kyoto agreement soon, preferably before the country hosts the Group of Eight meeting of leaders of industrialised countries in Alberta this summer.

"This set of options also shows that they are looking at possibilities other than just the negotiations with the EU. Now it's a matter of them coming up with a plan that works," Bennett said.
 

 

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