Canada won't obstruct Kyoto at climate talks: Kent
Opposition not part of delegation on climate talks
Published Tuesday, November 29, 2011 8:57PM EST
MONTREAL - The Canadian government promises not to play an obstructionist role in the current round of climate talks surrounding the Kyoto Protocol.
With Canada apparently planning to abandon the climate-change agreement, there is speculation the federal government might encourage other countries to follow suit.
The host country of the ongoing climate talks, South Africa, accused Canada of acting in bad faith and suggested it doesn't even belong at the Durban conference.
The federal government, however, said it won't try to stop other countries from pursuing an extension of the Kyoto agreement.
"We will not obstruct those who want to take a second commitment of Kyoto," Environment Minister Peter Kent told a news conference Tuesday in Montreal.
"Those who wish to continue with Kyoto can continue with a second commitment to Kyoto. We are going to argue in favour of a new agreement, which will eclipse Kyoto."
For the second day in a row, Kent wouldn't deny a news report that Canada plans to withdraw from the 1997 Kyoto agreement for good on Dec. 23, after the Durban summit.
Kent said Canada won't continue because the accord doesn't include some of the world's biggest emitters, like the United States, India and China.
The Kyoto Protocol, which includes commitments that expire at the end of 2012, bound 37 industrial countries to limit carbon emissions over a five-year period. After the accord ends, all countries still party to the deal will be assessed for how well they fared in a pledge to cut emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels.
The timing means the Durban summit, which opened Monday, will be centred on finding a new international treaty to fight climate change.
Developing countries, the European Union and environmental organizations want the talks to lead to a new version of Kyoto.
But Canada, Russia and Japan have already said they don't want to take part, pushing instead for a new agreement that sets the same rules for emitting countries, including emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.
Canada has since set its own, less stringent target of reducing emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.
On Tuesday, Kent reiterated the Conservative position that Kyoto is the "greatest blunder that the previous Liberal government made."
But one of Kent's political opponents accused the minister's delegation of planning to disrupt Kyoto negotiations and encourage other countries to withdraw from the accord.
"It's so underhanded and deceptive," New Democrat environment critic Megan Leslie said Tuesday.
She noted that rules under Kyoto say once a country gives notice it wishes to get out of the agreement, the withdrawal only takes effect a year later.
That would mean if Canada abandons the treaty on Dec. 23, Ottawa would still be invited to next year's conference in Qatar.
"All I can imagine is that the minister wants to go to Durban and Qatar," she said.
"So that he can (not only) be a legitimate party to the conversation, but actively work at lobbying governments not to embark on new negotiations and actively work at disrupting and steering negotiations off course."
One foreign official charged Tuesday that Canadian lobbying has already begun. South Africa's top diplomat to Canada said the country is already lobbying other nations to ditch Kyoto, an accusation the Canadian government denied.
Mohau Pheko, the South African high commissioner to Canada, said South Africa has heard from reliable sources from other countries who have been lobbied by Canada. Pheko declined to name the countries.
She said it would be disingenuous for Canada to attend the climate conference in Durban and then pull out Kyoto.
"It indicates that going into Durban they are not negotiating in good faith," Pheko said.
"One has to ask the question: 'Well what are they doing at a table if they are going to pull out of Kyoto anyway?' "
Meanwhile, the Conservative government is also facing opposition at home for its work on climate change.
Kent's remarks Tuesday about Kyoto came after a joint announcement with his Quebec counterpart for a 15-year agreement to protecting the St. Lawrence River.
Quebec Environment Minister Pierre Arcand might agree with Kent on the project to help the St. Lawrence, but he doesn't share the same views on how to keep greenhouse gases in check.
As he sat next to Kent for the announcement, Arcand was asked for his thoughts on the Conservative government's commitment to climate change and Kyoto.
"We think that the federal government, generally speaking when it comes to climate change, should be more ambitious," Arcand said, with Kent looking on.
"This has always been Quebec's position and yesterday our premier already talked about that as well, so we remain committed to the fight against climate change."
With files from The Associated Press