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Politics Canada, Japan blocking consensus at G7 on greenhouse gas reductions

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in the official family photo with outreach partners at the G7 Summit in Garmisch, Germany

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada and Japan are attempting to water down a strong G7 statement on climate change as the summit enters its final day today.

The Canadian Press has been told by sources who have seen the working draft of the G7's climate change communique that the two countries are blocking attempts at a specific statement on binding greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took part in the G7 leaders' shortened talks on climate change today as their summit entered its second and final day.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is placing the fight against climate change at the heart of her sweeping agenda.

Merkel wants the G7 summit to give France momentum when it hosts the United Nations climate change conference this December in which it hopes to reach a breakthrough agreement in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Merkel is pushing the G7 to endorse a pledge to reach zero carbon emissions, but Canada and Japan are holdouts.

"Canada and Japan are the most concerned about this one," said one source that has seen the draft document but would only discuss its contents on the condition of anonymity.

"The two of those countries have been the most difficult on every issue on climate. They don't want any types of targets in there, so I think they are trying to make it as vague as possible at this point."

A key paragraph in the final draft declaration that remains unresolved is whether to specify a long-term goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the source said.

Merkel is expected to push hard for a strong statement in the final text as the leaders convened to discuss climate change.

Harper and Merkel held a bilateral discussion on Sunday, but the prime minister's office said they did not discuss climate change.

Harper's office said in a statement that today's French-led climate talks focused on the "collective response to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the advancement of energy security in the face of escalating threats."

Harper's office says the G7 leaders chose to devote a portion of the climate session to a discussion of global security threats posed by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria and the ongoing fight against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria.

A senior Canadian government official, speaking on the condition they not be named, said Canada fully endorses a statement by the G7 that would support the December climate change talks in France, but did not say whether it should contain specific targets.

"We support agreement in Paris that includes all GHG emitting countries," the official said, noting that in 2013 Canada's emissions dropped 3.1 per cent from 2005 levels.

"We believe we have a fair and ambitious reduction target that is in line with other major industrialized economies. It reflects our national circumstance."

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Other groups disagree.

"It's pretty clear that Canada and Japan are in a different place than the rest of the G7 on the issue of climate change," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the global climate program at the Washington, D.C.-based World Resources Institute.

"All of the other countries have understood the risk and they are moving forward in decarbonizing their economies."

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