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What Prentice said in New York Add to ...

Q: It looks like it could be very difficult to get any kind of agreement because of this international binding target…

A: Well, there are two inter-related questions. They involve the Chinese and also the Americans. Neither party have binding commitments under Kyoto and that was essentially what was under discussion this morning. So from the United States, we've heard a willingness to work on the issue, but also a clear demonstration from the American President that they expect to see binding targets from China. The Chinese president made a historic speech - the first time the President of China has spoken here - but did not offer binding targets in terms of reductions, but rather targets that are related to specific things that would be done in China relative to energy efficiency, renewable energies and so on. So there's much work left to be done but we're hopeful as a country. Canada's been engaged in the process to arrive at the new Copenhagen agreement and we'll continue to work on this.

Q: But the Americans don't want international binding targets. They may not be able to get that through the Senate…

A: The essential issue in the United States of course is Senate ratification of the treaty. This was the dilemma at Kyoto. After the Kyoto agreement was negotiated, the American Senate prevented its ratification. So what we need to arrive at here is a treaty that is workable. One that will be ratified by the U.S. Senate and that can move us forward.

Q: No offence to you, but our Prime Minister isn't here. Other leaders are here showing their commitment to the environment.

A: Well, we are committed to the environment. We're committed to dealing with climate change. The Prime Minister will be here later in the day. He's personally asked me to attend today to be here for this morning's session and to take part in the round table. He will be here this evening and will be having dinner with 25 other world leaders and the Secretary General.

Q: Does it mean he doesn't care?

A: The Prime Minister very much cares about this and we've worked very hard on these issues. We're engaged constructively at the table with all of the other players. Over the course of the last month, I've crisscrossed the country, met with virtually all of the premiers. We'll finish that process this week and we've been engaged in all of the major international fore. The major economies process, everything else that's been going on, to try to get to an agreement in Copenhagen.

Q: There was quite a bit of anticipation about what the Chinese President would say here. What's your view of it? Was it new? Interesting? Advancing?

A: I think it was reflective of what we'd been hearing in the major economies forum from the Chinese. A willingness not to have very specific emission reduction targets but rather to embrace other actions and to express a willingness to incorporate those actions into an agreement. So for example, today, they talked about a willingness to have notable reductions in carbon. No specific numbers were mentioned. They also talked about an energy efficiency target. They also talked about a willingness to try to have their energy consumption 15 per cent renewable by 2020, but we've not heard of binding emission reductions that are along the lines of what the United States has been asking.

Q: He seems to be talking about intensity targets too.

A: He spoke very clearly of intensity targets, but not of the kind of emission reduction targets that Canada and the United States had been calling for.

Q: Is that a problem? Is that a deal breaker?

A: I think at the end of the day, this is an issue that has to be resolved. The developed countries have said they will take on economy-wide reductions. But concurrent with that, the developing, the major, emerging economies are going to have to take very specific international obligations on and that is very much, in absolute terms. That's very much the essential issue right now.

Q: China has even said whether they'd actually sign on to the treaty. They'd just do stuff at home.

A: Well, the extent to which the actions they undertake at home would be scheduled in the agreement is very much the question and China has said they would sign on to an agreement. But whether they would sign on to binding targets is the essential question.

Q: Do you get the sense that people have yet to put their cards on the table for this negotiation, if you know what I mean? That's the way negotiations work in trade for example. A lot more things come out as the time gets closer.

A: Well, we are down to a very serious period of time. I think that's clear. This is a complicated process. It's a complicated subject matter. Tony Blair was attending this past week at a ministerial meeting, offered the observation that of all the things that he's seen, this is the most complicated negotiation he could imagine. You have 192 countries here today taking part in these discussions and we need a way to resolve that impasse.

Q: They're not willing to show their bottom lines yet.

A: Well, today to be fair was a pivotal day because for the first time, in this forum, we've heard from the new president of the United States and the President of China. Those two countries are 50 per cent of the world's emissions. They are the two countries that are going to have to bridge this difference.

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