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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon delivers a speech at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on Wednesday May 12, 2010. (The Canadian Press)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon delivers a speech at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on Wednesday May 12, 2010. (The Canadian Press)

Put environment on G20 agenda, UN chief tells Harper Add to ...

The United Nations chief delivered tough messages to the Harper Conservatives on Wednesday, urging them to champion climate change and the world's poor at next month's G20 and G8 summits.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wants climate change on the agenda in earnest when Canada hosts the G20 summit in Toronto. He also wants the country to live up to the greenhouse-gas reduction targets it negotiated under the Kyoto Protocol.

"Canada has a special role and special responsibility to play. That is what I am going to emphasize here," Mr. Ban said before a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"I urge Canada to comply fully with the targets set out by the Kyoto Protocol. You can strengthen your mitigation target for the future."

Mr. Ban was greeted by a round of applause when he delivered his message to hundreds of academics, diplomats and civil society groups, telling them climate change threatens mankind's survival.

Mr. Harper has rejected the Kyoto Protocol, which was negotiated by the previous Liberal government and calls for a 6-per-cent reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020 based on 1990 levels.

The Conservatives have pledged a 17-per-cent reduction by 2020, based on 2005 levels, which is in line with U.S. targets but not as tough as Kyoto.

An advisory panel has told Mr. Harper to play down climate change at the G20, essentially telling him it is too ambitious a topic to tackle now. The Prime Minister is hosting the G20 in Toronto as well as a G8 leaders' summit in Muskoka, Ont., north of the city.

Mr. Ban called on Mr. Harper to press fellow G8 leaders to live up to their previous aid commitments to poor countries and to bring money to the table in Muskoka.

"I'm going to ask the Prime Minister Harper, as chair of the G8, that he must make sure that G8 leaders come ... with their commitment delivered. I hope Prime Minister Harper will work on the phones before they come."

The feisty South Korean also applauded the Harper Conservatives for making Third World child and maternal health a signature issue at the G8, but he reminded his audience it was the UN that has been pushing that for years.

"I'm pleased that Canada has joined our efforts on child and women's health," he said.

The Secretary-General steered clear of any reference to the government's controversial position not to fund abortion-related projects under the initiative.

Mr. Ban appeared headed for a clash with the Conservatives over development spending and climate, issues he said were intertwined.

Mr. Ban said the global financial crisis is no excuse for the world's richest countries to put aid commitments on the back burner, as he pressed for more funding.

Canada has trumpeted the fact it met its commitment to double aid to Africa by this year. But Canada will freeze aid spending next year as a deficit-fighting measure. Mr. Ban was to meet with International Development Minister Bev Oda while in Ottawa.

Mr. Ban wants the G20 to find money for developing countries to deal with climate change, as well. Ban planned to see Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who opposes an international bank tax that could be used to raise money for that purpose.

"I will also look to the G20 to push for a green recovery for the global economic crisis," Mr. Ban said.

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