Baird defends Conservative position on Kyoto
Published Friday, April 20, 2007 10:31AM EDT
Environment Minister John Baird shot back at critics Friday, calling the Conservative government's position towards the Kyoto Protocol a "balanced approach."
"What we want to do is take a balanced approach, an approach where we can actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions... in a way that helps our environment and preserves Canadian jobs," Baird told CTV's Canada AM.
The Senate environmental committee is currently considering a bill put forward by Liberal MP Pablo Rodriquez that would force the government to comply with the Kyoto targets.
On Thursday, Baird was accused of using scare tactics when he painted a grim depiction of the economic mayhem that Canada would have to endure if it were to comply with the Kyoto Protocol.
He told the committee that economists have warned against following the Kyoto targets and that if they did comply it would mean the following:
- Gasoline will cost more than $1.60 a litre over the 2008-to-2012 period
- 275,000 Canadians working today will lose their jobs by 2009
- Job loss will cause unemployment rates to rise 25 per cent by 2009
- The decline of economic activity in the range of $51 billion
"I don't expect Liberals, NDP or Green Party members to come out and support the Conservative plan... which I think is going to be very effective at reducing green house gas emissions in a balanced way," Baird said Friday.
"The Liberals have spent the last 10 years doing nothing on the environment and now they want to spend the next 10 years wrecking the economy."
Louise Comeau, a veteran environmentalist with The Sage Centre, said the Kyoto Protocol needs to be viewed as a small step in a bigger process.
"What's happening is that the minister is trying to confuse and to essentially alarm Canadians," Comeau told CTV's Canada AM on Friday. "He's also trying to position Kyoto as a one-off thing so that he can actually pull Canada out of the international process."
Kyoto calls for Canada to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. As of 2003, those emissions had increased by 27 per cent above 1990 levels.
If Canada doesn't meet its treaty obligations, it faces a 30 per cent penalty under the next phase of the Kyoto accord.
"What he (Baird) needs to do... is to announce next week that we will take full responsibility for any shortfall in our objectives and we will roll that into our future targets," said Comeau.
"That's not what's coming -- the minister will announce next week that industry will receive a target that will in fact allow Canada to continue increasing emissions well through 2012 and at about 2020 still be about 11 per cent above our Kyoto targets."
Suzuki to present petition
Meanwhile, David Suzuki is set to meet with Baird on Friday to hand over a petition bearing the names of 30,000 people who consider the environment a top priority.
"Canadians, I believe, are far ahead of the political posturing that we see," the respected environmental activist told reporters Friday. "They're not afraid to pay more and what they want is action."
While Baird said yesterday that meeting the Kyoto carbon emissions targets would "manufacture a recession" for Canada, Suzuki says other economists have estimated the cost at one per cent of gross national product.
He said ignoring global warming will cost more than both world wars put together.
After asking Canadians for their input, Suzuki outlined the five most common suggestions he received on how to improve the environment:
- affordable, sustainable public transit across the country
- a carbon tax system to help meet Kyoto commitments
- right to clean water, breathable air and safe food
- identify habitat and protect species at risk
- institute a national program to penalize polluters and reward those carrying out green initiatives
Baird said his criticism of Rodriguez' Bill C-288 shouldn't be seen as a condemnation of Kyoto, and the government remains committed to the principles and objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.
With a report from CTV's David Akin and files from The Canadian Press