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Waste gases burn as smoke and steam belch from steel mills in Hamilton on February 1, 2007. (J.P. MOCZULSKI)
Waste gases burn as smoke and steam belch from steel mills in Hamilton on February 1, 2007. (J.P. MOCZULSKI)

Norman Spector

Kissing off Kyoto Add to ...

While climate change is still sometimes seen as a vulnerable area for the Conservatives, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in fact winning the domestic political war. If you need any proof, here it is:

In 2006, running for the Liberal leadership, Michael Ignatieff said: "I believe Canada must stay committed to Kyoto and must work towards the 2012 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels."

Yet, in a speech on Monday in which he declared that the environment would be the centre-piece of his election platform, the Liberal leader made not a single reference to the Kyoto protocol.

Meanwhile, on the international level, it's looking increasingly likely that Kyoto will be abandoned. And if Kyoto is abandoned, Canada will not suffer any penalty - as some have feared - for not meeting the commitments that Jean Chrétien's government imprudently and irresponsibly signed on to.

Industrial countries have accepted that the odds of the United States signing onto Kyoto under this Administration are no greater than under its two predecessors. Indeed, unbeknownst to most Canadians, the Obama Administration is already negotiating bilateral deals with India and China - as Naomi Klein notes with some bitterness in today's Guardian.

It appears that Kyoto will be replaced by nationally set carbon emission targets. Like the targets that the Harper government has set and is trying to coordinate with the Obama Administration. There, the matter is far from settled, judging from this report in yesterday's Washington Post.

"A House-passed bill that targets climate change through a cap-and-trade system of pollution credits would slow the nation's economic growth slightly over the next few decades and would create 'significant' job losses from fossil fuel industries as the country shifts to renewable energy, the head of the Congressional Budget Office told a Senate energy panel Wednesday."

In placing investments in green energy at the heart of his environmental policy, Mr. Ignatieff is reading the tea leaves that national targets are coming. Which is not to say that he will not have issues on which to disagree with the Conservatives at the Copenhagen Conference in December, judging from this report in the New York Times:

"The price tag for a new climate agreement will be a staggering $100 billion a year by 2020, many economists estimate; some put the cost at closer to $1 trillion. That money is needed to help fast-developing countries like India and Brazil convert to costly but cleaner technologies as they industrialize, as well as to assist the poorest countries in coping with the consequences of climate change, like droughts and rising seas. Xie Zhenhua, the lead Chinese climate negotiator, speaking at a news conference in New York last month, said the United Nations should not expect China to pay."

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