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Charest’s climate zeal honoured with an Australian forest

While Canada is being raked over the coals at the UN Climate Summit, Quebec is picking up accolades: a forest in Australia is being named for the province's Premier.

The Jean Charest urban forest, on the outskirts of Adelaide, is to highlight the Premier's commitment to fighting climate change.

Mr. Charest is the second winner of the annual prize handed out by the state of South Australia; last year's recipient was California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The award was handed out Tuesday at the UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico.

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Mr. Charest was heralded for his province's reductions in greenhouse gases and for what his Australian equivalent, Mike Rann, called "extraordinary leadership" that has inspired counterparts around the world.

Mr. Charest was a unanimous choice, Mr. Rann said.

The Quebec Premier has taken a popular stand at home – but ruffled feathers in Ottawa – by criticizing the Harper government's lack of movement on the climate file.

Mr. Charest left Mexico on Tuesday without meeting with Environment Minister John Baird, who was just about to arrive at the conference.

Having become increasingly unpopular with voters in his province, Mr. Charest quipped that he never expected such a distinction.

"I never thought a forest would be named in my honour," he said with a smile. "I'm looking forward to visiting."

A petition now being circulated, signed by 240,000 Quebeckers, is calling on Mr. Charest to step down. Much of the anger at Mr. Charest is not over policy issues, like the environment, but over his refusal to call an inquiry into corruption controversies.

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He received a bit of encouragement from a foreign counterpart Tuesday.

"All I can say is that the role of premier is a tough job and involves difficult decisions," said Mr. Rann, a veteran Australian politician himself.

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