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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Canada Changes Course -attempt to curb greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

Time has come to think newer for the environment and climate ,have to think about global warming effect .
Canada is changing course when it comes to dealing with climate change. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it will quit participating in the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012 and will join the Asia-Pacific partnership.
Ken Silverstein
EnergyBiz Insider

The two treaties both attempt to curb greenhouse gases that cause climate change. But the Kyoto Protocol is mandatory with definite timetables whereas the Asia-Pacific Partnership does not set any rigid requirements. The Canadian prime minister, a long time skeptic of Kyoto, made his announcement last week at a United Nations conference to extend and redefine Kyoto's requirement beyond 2012.

Canada must balance its obligations to the environment with those of its own economy, Harper says. And the nation cannot be disadvantaged if other major emitters are not willing to agree to compulsory cuts in greenhouse gases. With that in mind, Canada will join the United States, Australia, Japan, China, India and Korea in the alternative alliance - a group that accounts for half the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

"These are discussions we want to get involved in because these are the people that have to get involved in an effective international protocol, or we won't have such a protocol," Harper told reporters after the UN conference. "This will be another international forum where Canada can pursue its objectives in terms of fighting climate change."

Canada will remain a party to the Kyoto pact through 2012. That agreement, ratified by 173 nations in 2004, calls on developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels. They are to do so by 2012.

Canada and the European Union were instrumental in the effort to get the protocol ratified. The United States had refused to join it while major developing countries like China and India were exempted from early emissions. The agreement was initially signed by Canada's liberal government. Conservatives, however, protested it and said it would cost jobs and have little effect on emissions. They now point out that Canada's annual greenhouse gas releases are about 25 percent higher than they were in 1990.

The nations that joined Kyoto are required to submit reports that detail their progress. Beside Canada, Finland, New Zealand and Spain are at least 20 percent off target. Any country that fails to meet its 6 percent goal by 2012 must then increase its obligation by 30 percent during the next commitment period. Such nations also have to develop a blueprint that outlines their future plan of action.

Ironically, the purpose of the UN conference had been to galvanize support for Kyoto and to refine the climate change pact going forward. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon is a strong backer of the international protocol and definitive action to control carbon emissions, saying "the time for doubt has passed."

Critics Speak

In making his announcement at the UN conference, Prime Minister Harper had hoped to portray his government as conciliatory and concerned when it comes to combating climate change. Like others, he called on nations to curb their heat trapping emissions by 50 percent by 2050, although he said that binding targets are unwise.

Critics of Harpers actions, such as Sierra Club of Canada, said that the prime minister not only undercut the UN secretary general but that he also embarrassed his fellow countrymen. Other high profile participants at the UN conference did not take direct shots at Harper but they did at his ideas. Among those present were former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who have referred to the Asia-Pacific Partnership as "Kyoto Lite."

Kyoto's backers say that its provisions will have a nominal effect on Canada's economy, noting that growth is expected to occur, but at 0.4 percent less than it would otherwise. Any economic risks pale in comparison to the environmental consequences of doing nothing, they add. Rising sea levels and massive floods present an even greater danger and would cause trillions in economic damages.

Canada's new position is a blow to Kyoto's backers and comes amidst a summit to be held in Bali, Indonesia in December. That's when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will work to stretch Kyoto's lifespan beyond 2012. All signatories of the protocol are now figuring out how to minimize their use of fossil fuels and to increase their use of wind, solar and energy conservation.

By comparison, the Asia-Pacific Partnership is voluntary and relies entirely on free market approaches to fighting climate change. Like Kyoto's participants, it also would use trading exchanges to accomplish the standards it sets. Participants, for example, could establish non-binding limits on emission levels. Those nations that exceed their goals could sell credits to those that are unable to meet their obligations.

At the same time, this alternative alliance would promote the use of new technologies by easing the transfer of them to nations around the globe. Indeed, the development of new technologies is at the heart of the battle against global warming. Along those lines, Canada is working on carbon capture and storage technologies. Before any carbon emissions would be released, they would be sequestered and buried. "Canada is working on a variety of strategies," says Harper.

In expressing his skepticism of the Kyoto Protocol, the prime minister makes valid arguments. Nevertheless, the push to improve air quality will remain a constant and by extension, the concerns surrounding global warming will not fade. The international community will pressure Canada and other nations to create more definitive plans on how they expect to reduce their emission levels and the subsequent greenhouse gases.

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