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Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a bilateral meeting at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Port-of-Spain on Nov. 28, 2009.


Leaders of Commonwealth nations representing nearly two billion people threw their weight behind a declaration in Trinidad today to seek a "binding" deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen next month.

Canada also agreed along with other wealthy industrialized nations to contribute to a $10-billion (U.S.) fund that will help developing countries cope with the adverse impacts of climate instability, including flooding in low-lying areas.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, declined to respond to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for Canada to offer "ambitious" new targets for cutting greenhouse gases in the mid-term, meaning the next 10 or 15 years.

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Mr. Harper, whom environmental activists have accused of intransigence on climate change, was chided by Mr. Ban Friday who said Canada has a responsibility as a world leader to do more.

"Many countries, developed and developing countries, have come out with ambitious targets," the UN leader said.

"Canada is going to soon chair the G8 and therefore it is only natural that Canada should come out with ambitious mid-term targets," he said.

Asked about Mr. Ban's comments, Mr. Harper dodged the question, suggesting that since the UN leader likes U.S. President Barack Obama's greenhouse gas-cutting plan, by extension he must actually be happy with Canada's approach too.

"I notice that the UN secretary-general made particular praiseworthy note of targets that President Obama has laid out. Those targets are of course completely in line with the government of Canada's policy," Mr. Harper said.

Mr. Harper said he's keen to see countries strike a detailed agreement on greenhouse gas reductions in Copenhagen next month.

But he offered no evidence that Canada is thinking of offering deeper cuts in the earlier term, as opposed to its existing targets for 2020 and 2050.

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The Prime Minister suggested he had little patience for "abstract targets."

"I look forward to seeing a comprehensive agreement in Copenhagen where we will actually get on with actually reducing emissions as opposed to setting abstract targets," Mr. Harper said.

Separately, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd came to Canada's defence yesterday, saying that Mr. Harper is "fully supportive of what we have before us." He said Canada's "always had its heart in it."

The 53 Commonwealth countries meeting in Port of Spain Trinidad right now issued the Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration which includes backing for the Copenhagen Launch Fund, starting in 2010 and building to $10-billion in 2012, that would help poor countries cope with the impacts of global warming.

"We pledge our continued support to the leaders-driven process ... to deliver a comprehensive, substantial and operationally binding agreement in Copenhagen leading towards a fully legally binding outcome no later than 2010," the declaration said.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More


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