Federal Environment Minister David Anderson said yesterday he will continue his push for clean energy export credits under the Kyoto Protocol, despite harsh criticism from Europe.
The export credits are seen as a way to reduce the potential cost of ratifying the Kyoto treaty, which business groups and the Alberta government have pegged at tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs. The federal government has yet to release an official cost projection.
Mr. Anderson said Canada will unveil a formal proposal for the credit plan at a United Nations meeting in Whistler, British Columbia, next month.
"There's no question that this issue becomes more critical for Canada because of the United States's withdrawal from the Kyoto process," he told reporters at a news conference yesterday after playing host to a meeting of G8 environment ministers in Banff, Alta., on the weekend. "And it is something that needs to be looked at on its merits and not on the basis of political position."
But Mr. Anderson's plan met stiff opposition from representatives of the European Union and individual European countries throughout the two-day, closed-door meeting of ministers.
German Environment Minister Jurgen Trittin said the export-credit proposal, in which Canada could claim emissions reductions for clean fuel it sells to the United States, could backfire on Canada.
For example, he said, the plan could mean expensive technology imported from Germany that would dramatically reduce Canadian greenhouse gas emissions could result in credits going back to Europe. "This is not an idea that has been thought to its real final consequences," he said after a meeting yesterday morning on climate control and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Margot Wallstrom, the EU's Environment Commissioner, said the clean-fuel credits would not be granted. She pointed out that Canada has already wrung out considerable concessions in previous meetings.
"We think this . . . would completely change the whole structure and architecture of the Kyoto Protocol," she said.
"It would be really sad if Canada wouldn't ratify in the end," she said, adding that "the blame should not be on us, who are inside the Kyoto Protocol, but rather to push the Americans to come back on board."
An international treaty to address climate change, Kyoto would see the world's industrialized countries commit to meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2008 to 2012.
The United States backed out of the treaty last year, saying it would follow its own path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's government has said it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol, its intentions are seen as increasingly in doubt.
"Their position is incredibly mushy," said Greenpeace climate change director Benedict Southworth.
"What they've done is they've basically tried to duck the issue. They've tried to keep it off the agenda."
The meeting of G8 ministers was intended to address a variety of environmental issues, but climate change quickly took centrestage, despite Mr. Anderson's efforts to deal with issues such as environment-related health in developing countries, especially concerning children.
"A child dies every 10 seconds -- every 10 seconds -- think how many children have died since we started this press conference," he told reporters.
The violent protests that have characterized recent meetings of world leaders didn't materialize in Banff.
Police were out in force in this resort town as they used the meeting to help train for the G8 leaders summit set for June 26-27 at nearby Kananaskis.
RCMP officers, in and out of uniform, with dogs and on bicycles, patrolled the town and the hotel where the meeting was held throughout the weekend.
About activists held a peaceful demonstration yesterday morning, marching to the hotel to protest against Canada's delay in ratifying the Kyoto treaty.