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Canada Backs off Global Warming Pledge

(ENS) -- Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore has created a furor in Canada over the Conservative Government's new plan to impose mandatory greenhouse gas emissions targets on industry. The plan supercedes Canada's legally binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

In Toronto to present his global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" at an environmental show on Saturday, Gore said, "In my opinion, it is a complete and total fraud. It is designed to mislead the Canadian people."

Environment Minister John Baird shot back with a statement later Saturday, saying, "It is difficult to accept criticism from someone who preaches about climate change, but who never submitted the Kyoto Protocol to a vote in the United States Senate, who never did as much as Canada is now doing to fight climate change during eight years in Office, and who has campaigned exclusively for hundreds of Democratic candidates who have weaker plans to fight greenhouse gases than Canada's New Government."

"It is equally regrettable that the former U.S. vice president decided to speak out without ever having been briefed on the contents of our plan," said Baird.

"The fact is our plan is vastly tougher than any measures introduced by the administration of which the former Vice President was a member."

The Conservatives' plan outlines intensity-based emissions targets that will not be implemented until 2010, and will have no hard caps on emissions. The government's announced target is by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20 percent below the 2006 level.

Based on this plan, Canada will be in violation of international law and will be the only Kyoto Protocol nation to have reneged on its commitments.

Gore said he was surprised to see that the Conservative plan uses the concept of "intensity reduction," which he said is a "poll-tested phrase" developed in Houston by the so-called think tanks financed by polluters.

The Bush administration uses the measure of greenhouse gas intensity -- a comparison of emissions with economic growth -- rather than the absolute emissions reductions measurements under the Kyoto Protocol.

Baird said the Conservatives' plan will for the first time "force" industry to reduce greenhouse gases. Baird said the plan would bring down greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the government's goal of "an absolute reduction of 150 megatons by 2020."

In announcing the new plan, Baird blamed the previous Liberal government for Canada's rising greenhouse gas emissions.

"The previous government was never able to put on the brakes. We will do that beginning today," said Baird, pledging to stop the rise in Canada's greenhouse gases "in three to five years."

But Canada has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and the new plan does not meet the legally binding Kyoto target of a reduction of six percent of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2012 -- five years from now.

The Conservative government rejected the Kyoto targets, stating that Canada could not meet them.

"If the Liberal government had instituted this plan in 1998 when they signed Kyoto, Canada would have achieved its emissions target. Canada would be at Kyoto today," said Baird.

But Liberal Leader Stephane Dion supported Gore's assessment of the Conservatives' plan. At a festival in Toronto he said, "The world expects Canada will do its share -- more than that, that Canada will be a leader and we are failing the world. We are failing Canadians."

New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton, who was at the same festival, also backed Gore's criticism. "Let me remind Mr. Baird and the Liberals before him that the U.S. has done better in reducing their emissions than Canada has under the Liberals and the Conservatives," he said.

Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May, said Saturday that the Conservatives' plan is "not a climate change plan, it's a climate disaster plan."

"The framework makes clear that the Harper Government is abandoning any attempt to reach Canada's legally binding targets under the Kyoto Protocol," said May.

"This plan doesn't even come close to Kyoto," May said. "In 2020, eight years after the target period, they're still 12 percent over Kyoto. The Conservative government is trying to confuse Canadians. But I have confidence that people will see this plan for what it really is -- a complete abdication of the government's Kyoto obligations."

Joslyn Higginson, of Greenpeace's Climate and Energy Campaign, said, "Only two days after the release of the Harper Government's so-called climate change plan, Canada's international image has been dragged into the mud, adding to the tidal wave of domestic criticism from all quarters."

"Al Gore is the single most influential advocate for the environment out there, so his criticism and his opinion will carry weight internationally. That's disturbing for Canada, for our image and our foreign policy -- and for Canadians, who want to see us respect our international commitments," said Higginson.

Greenpeace supports the Liberals' Bill C-30 which amends three separate federal Acts -- the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Energy Efficiency Act, and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act, which is not in force.

Bill C-30 seeks to reduce the risks associated with air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

In his remarks Saturday, Gore acknowledged he is not a Canadian citizen and said he has "no right to interfere in your decisions."

But Gore said, "the world looks to Canada for moral leadership and that's why this week's announcement was so shocking."

Baird said he is ready to meet with Gore at any time to discuss the climate change threat and the Conservative Government's "tough plan to reduce Canada's emissions."

© 2007 Environment News Service and reprinted by special permission

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Albion Monitor   April 29, 2007   (

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