Environment Minister John Baird told reporters in Bali on Tuesday that while Canada believes in hard targets to cut greenhouse emissions, now is not the time to introduce them.

The international community has gathered in Indonesia to hammer out initial details of a post-Kyoto pact to deal with climate change.

Canada has been among the leaders -- along with the United States and Japan -- in opposing a reference to specific goals for developed countries to cut emissions by 2020.

A draft resolution introduced at the summit would have asked developed countries to cut emissions by 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. The whole world would be required to stabilize emissions within 15 years.

Baird told reporters at the conference that "We're not here to do the formal negotiations, we're here to launch negotiations."

Baird accused of ducking meeting

Baird was supposed to explain Canada's position at a meeting with non-governmental activists attending the conference. He showed up for the meeting, but quickly left before speaking.

Canadian activists and others waited for the minister to return. But they were later told Baird had to attend negotiations and would not be back.

"The minister who was supposed to address us was AWOL. He ran away," said Olivier Lavoie of the Canadian Youth in Action.

Lavoie said the minister probably did not want to confront young activists critical of Canada's stand.

Europeans push for targets

Stavros Dimas, European commissioner for the environment, said setting a target for 2020 is essential to hold the global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, something necessary for staving off dangerous climate change.

"We need this range of reductions by developed countries," he told reporters Tuesday. "Science tells us that these reductions are necessary. Logic requires that we listen to science."

Baird has been saying that Canada intends to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

However, the Tories use a baseline year of 2006, not the much tougher 1990 standard that all other nations use.

Climate analysts have said the Tories' plan -- if it even works -- would leave Canada's emissions two per cent above 1990 levels by 2020.

The European Union wants to cut its emissions by at least 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Canada's Kyoto target is to cut emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. However, greenhouse gas emissions rose by about 27 per cent between 1990 and 2004.

Dion calls for leadership

Meanwhile Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, who is now in Bali, said delegates need to show leadership.

Baird has repeatedly argued that Canada will not accept any deal unless it includes major polluters like the United States, China and India.

"It's certainly not enough to say, 'I will do something only if the others do something'," Dion told a meeting of municipal leaders. "The good philosophy is to say, 'I will do the most I can and I ask you to do the same.'"

Dion, who calls the Tory approach "a recipe for failure," has met with Canadian environmentalists -- something the government delegation hasn't done -- and will meet with UN climate boss Yvo de Boer, who had some pointed words about the Canadian position.

"I personally find it interesting to hear Canada just a little while ago indicating it would not meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol," de Boer said Monday. "Now (it's) calling on developing countries to take binding reduction targets."

Canada is one of the world's top per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, along with the United States and Australia.

Canada and the U.S. emitted about 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per capita in 2004. In comparison, China emitted 3.8 tonnes and India 1.2 tonnes.

However, China's huge population, booming economy, and heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity means it may have already passed the United States as the world's top total emitter.

Tuesday also marks a key climate anniversary: The Kyoto Protocol was signed 10 years ago in Japan. The Bali talks are part of the process of developing a post-Kyoto treaty.

Kyoto required 36 industrialized countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

The United States refused to ratify Kyoto. U.S. President George Bush said cuts would hurt his country's economy. He was also opposed to excluding developing countries from making emissions cuts.

With files from The Associated Press