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Politics Canada committed to reaching climate-change deal, French President says

French President Francois Hollande address Parliament in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 3, 2014.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

French President François Hollande says he has no reason to doubt Canada's commitment to reaching a global agreement on climate change, but used an appearance in Ottawa to stress that negotiations must not be left to the last minute.

France will be host of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris next year, at which governments will seek to come to an agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Speaking in Ottawa during a three-day visit to Canada, Mr. Hollande said work must be done in advance meetings for the 2015 conference in Paris to succeed.

"I have no reason to doubt that Canada will be fully committed during each of these steps on the way to the Paris conference," Mr. Hollande said. "We would like to avoid what happened in Denmark, in Copenhagen, where the heads of state and governments thought they could reach an agreement in the very few, last few hours. And this is not possible. We have to find an agreement within the coming months."

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A day earlier, the United Nations released a report outlining a dire future if more is not done to mitigate the threat of climate change. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said global greenhouse gas emissions may need to be reduced to zero by the end of this century to limit the impact.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada is taking a sector-by-sector approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and has a "good story to tell." However, government figures released earlier this year suggest Canada has little chance of meeting the targets it agreed to in Copenhagen at the last climate conference.

Responding to a French journalist's question about the oil sands, Mr. Harper said Canada reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the oil sands by 40 per cent in recent years. Asked for clarification, a spokesman for the Prime Minister later said the figure refers specifically to emissions intensity for oil sands upgrading between 1990 and 2011 – a distinction Mr. Harper did not make in his comments to reporters.

A 2013 Environment Canada report says increased oil sands production is expected to drive a rise in emissions from the oil and gas sector of 23 per cent between 2005 and 2020.

Mr. Hollande also urged developed countries to contribute to the Green Climate Fund, which is aimed at helping low-income countries address climate change. He noted that France has pledged $1-billion toward the fund, "And I call upon all the countries that can contribute to do so as well."

The French President is on a multiday trip to Canada this week, which began in Banff, Alta., a sign he is interested in boosting his country's relationship with Canada's western provinces. He spoke in Parliament on Monday, and will be in Montreal and Quebec City on Tuesday.

Mr. Harper said he discussed a variety of issues with Mr. Hollande on Monday, including Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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On Monday morning, Mr. Hollande laid a wreath at the National War Memorial, where Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot on Oct. 22. His attacker then went to Parliament Hill and forced his way into Centre Block, where he was eventually shot dead by security officers. Mr. Hollande expressed sympathy to Canada over the attack, which he referred to as "terrorist-inspired."

Both Canada and France have joined a U.S.-led coalition targeting Islamic State militants in Iraq. Mr. Hollande said air strikes are necessary to help combat the group but must be combined with efforts on the ground by Iraqi and Kurdish fighters.

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