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Canada Threatens to Reject Kyoto Pact

Source: The Globe and Mail
By: MARK MACKINNON with a report from SHAWN McCARTHY in Ottawa
Thursday, July 19th, 2001

OTTAWA -- Canada will not ratify the 1997 Kyoto accord on global warming unless it gets favourable terms for reaching the deal's emission-reduction targets, a senior government official has suggested.

While talks aimed at rescuing the pact are taking place in Bonn this week, the official said Canada won't ratify the final deal if it believes the terms are unacceptable.

"We will ratify when we know the negotiations will allow us to ratify," the official said. While Canada and more than 150 other countries agreed in 1997 to slash emissions of the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming, few countries have formally ratified it. Canada will try to meet its Kyoto targets "whether or not we ratify," the official said.

Conceivably, not ratifying the Kyoto accord would let Canada make its own rules on how to meet its emission-reduction targets.

The Bonn talks have been characterized by a large gap between the European Union, which wants tough rules about how countries reach their Kyoto goals, and another group -- including Canada -- that wants to reduce the burden the climate-change fight will put on industry. In an interview, Environment Minister David Anderson refused to say whether Canada will end up ratifying the treaty.

"Ratification is impossible to consider until we know what the rules are," he said. "We'll face that decision when it comes."

Environmentalists following the negotiations were angry, but unsurprised to hear that Canada was talking about not ratifying the treaty.

Robert Hornung, director of the climate-change program at the Pembina Institute in Ottawa, said Canada is only now saying in a more explicit manner something that has long been understood. "The possibility that Canada will not ratify Kyoto has always been there. Simply put, the Canadian government is unwilling to ratify Kyoto unless its target is weakened," he said.

The United States has already withdrawn from the Kyoto process, saying meeting the emission-reduction targets would cost the country's economy too much. Many, particularly in the Western Canadian oil patch, believe Canada should not agree to the terms of the treaty without the United States, because it would give a competitive advantage to U.S. companies that are not required to reduce their emissions.

In the face of growing evidence that the planet's temperatures are rising, Canada committed in 1997 to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases believed to cause global warming to 6 per cent below 1990 levels.

Since that time, however, emissions have risen, and are now 15 per cent above 1990 levels. Some forecasters believe meeting the country's Kyoto goals by the target date of 2010 may be impossible.

Canada would like to reduce the distance it has to go by receiving "credits" for its forest management practices, because forests and farmlands absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The country's delegation to Bonn, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, also wants Canada to receive credits for exporting nuclear reactors to developing nations.

Both points are hotly disputed by the Europeans, who have been engaged in a war of words with Mr. Anderson since talks collapsed last November in The Hague.

If Canada abandons the Kyoto accord and goes its own route, it could sound the death knell for a deal environmentalists say is a "good first step" in fighting global warming. Japan and Australia have also made noises about abandoning the pact.

Peter Tabuns, executive director of Greenpeace Canada, says Canada has been acting in the latest round of negotiations like it wants to scuttle Kyoto and move on. He said Canada's renewed insistence that it get credit for exporting nuclear power -- a position it dropped under heavy pressure during negotiations at The Hague -- shows the country isn't serious about reaching an agreement.

"From the way they're behaving here, they're playing a game making it very difficult to make a deal," he said from Bonn. "They've been taking ridiculous and embarrassing positions."