The Harper government is joining the United States in raising objections to a planned $100-billion (U.S.) a year climate fund that is designed to bridge differences between rich countries and the developing world.
Heading into the United Nations climate conference in Durban this week, the United States has made it clear it will not support the current proposals for the climate fund over concerns about how the money would be raised, lack of verification of how it is spent, and an unwillingness of major emerging countries to commit to legally binding emissions reduction.
Environment Minister Peter Kent has raised his own doubts about the climate fund, saying on the weekend that Ottawa would not agree to proceeding with it in the absence of a broad global agreement, which would include China and other emerging economies, to restrain greenhouse-gas emissions.
The Harper government has already indicated it will not commit to new targets under the Kyoto Protocol after the treaty's first commitment period expires in 2012.
Mr. Kent on Monday would not comment directly on reports that the government will pull out of Kyoto after the Durban conference. Such a move would remove international monitoring of Canada's emissions reductions. It would also amount to a repudiation of key principles of the Kyoto treaty, notably that the developed world has a historical obligation to do the lion's share of reduction because it has contributed most of the industrial emissions that cause climate change.
"Kyoto is the past," he told reporters on Monday.
The Harper government has instead endorsed the 2009 Copenhagen accord, which included a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases from all major emitting countries, including the United States and China. While countries have published targets, negotiators have made little progress in converting the Copenhagen political compromise into a binding treaty.
"Our commitment is to Copenhagen and to a realistic plan to reduce greenhouse gases in alignment with our neighbour and closest trading partner with whom we have very integrated economies to reduce our greenhouse gases on a continental basis," Mr. Kent said.
New Democratic Party environment critic Megan Leslie accused the government of attempting to sabotage the Durban talks with its hard line on Kyoto.
The Harper government has largely mirrored the U.S. approach to global climate negotiations, a stand that has frustrated European and developing countries that are members of the Kyoto Protocol.
Negotiators at Durban are wrestling with how to finance the climate fund. UN officials are suggesting countries consider taxes on air travel and marine transport, and some countries support a financial transaction tax. Neither Washington nor Ottawa have supported such measures.
The United States last week indicated it supported the "basic concept" of a climate fund, but had serious reservations about its design. Washington wants major emerging countries like China, Brazil and India to play a role in financing emission reductions in lesser developed countries.
Graham Saul, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, said the climate fund is a critical prerequisite to an international treaty that would bring real progress on global emissions reductions.
"The fund was supposed to be about building trust toward a meaningful international agreement and Canada has violated that trust in so many ways, this is only the latest way," Mr. Saul said.