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Canada acknowledges it will not meet Kyoto targets under new climate change plan

Canada acknowledges it will not meet Kyoto targets under new climate change plan

Canada acknowledged it will not meet its Kyoto Protocol targets despite a national environmental initiative announced by the Conservative government that plans to cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020.
The new goal, announced Thursday, means Canada will not meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change _ which requires 35 industrialized countries to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that act like a greenhouse, trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Under the Kyoto accord, the former Liberal government committed to a 6 percent cut in greenhouse emissions from 1990 levels by 2012. But the country's emissions are now 30 percent above 1990 levels.
"The plan we are presenting today does meet Kyoto, if today was 1997. But the reality is that I didn't decide to do nothing in 1997," Environment Minister John Baird said Thursday in blaming the former Liberal government. "I can't take responsibility for 10 lost years, but I can fully, and our government is prepared to fully, accept our responsibilities today."
The plan to tighten emissions controls on industry will cause Canada some economic pain, Baird warned. The government predicts price increases for cars, home appliances, electricity and fuel.
"In the worst year of this plan, we could see a loss of economic activity of seven or eight billion (dollars). That's significant, that's real," Baird said. "We could have a slowdown of 0.5 percent in the growth of our GDP."
The new plan includes various measures to stop the rise of greenhouse gases in three to five years. The government then plans to reduce them by about 20 percent of the level of current emissions, or by 150 megatons.
It says industry can meet targets through reducing emissions, contributing to a technology fund or participating in domestic emissions trading.
Mark Winfield, a policy analyst for the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental think tank, said if no targets were enacted, Alberta's booming oil sands projects alone would have increased Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 142 megatons by 2020.
Pierre Alvarez, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, called the new regulations the most stringent in the world, but he took comfort in the absence of hard caps on emissions like those in the Kyoto Accord.
The energy industry had been fighting hard emissions caps, preferring intensity targets that allow industries to increase their greenhouse gas outputs as they increase production.
"This means that pollution can go up as long as the intensity goes down," said Aaron Freeman of Environmental Defense. "Well the environment doesn't care about intensity, it cares about absolute amounts of pollution."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government, which draws most of its support from oil-rich Alberta and other western provinces, unveiled a plan to fight climate change last year, but it was criticized because it had greenhouse-gas reduction targets as far ahead in the future as 2050.
Climate change was not a priority for Conservatives when they were elected in January 2006, but polls show the issue is now one of the most important ones for Canadians. The new leader of the Liberals has pledged to honor Kyoto if he unseats Harper in an election.
Opposition parties will not have an opportunity to vote on the new plan: it will be undertaken through regulatory changes that do not require their support.
"This won't get the job done. With this plan, we fall further behind our international obligations," New Democrat party leader Jack Layton said.