Canada warns it won\'t make a quick Kyoto decision
OTTAWA - Climate change is such a complex topic that Canada will not be announcing a decision on whether to ratify the Kyoto Protocol at this month\'s \"Earth Summit 2,\" Environment Minister David Anderson said.
\"This is the most complex issue the international community has ever faced up to. Ending the Second World War was not as difficult,\" he said in an interview in advance of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
The Johannesburg summit is designed as a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where, among other commitments, developed nations agreed to cut greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol fleshed out and formalized the commitment, but Anderson has been fighting an uphill battle to get Canada to ratify it, particularly since the United States has decided against it.
\"Canada has not made its decision on ratification and will not make its decision until we\'ve got our plan developed, which doesn\'t penalize any region of the country, and until we\'ve had our full consultation with the provinces, territories and the private sector,\" Anderson said.
The minister continued to hold out hope for a decision in 2002 but said this was not certain given all the consultations needed.
He has taken a lonely position within the federal cabinet on the issue, but he got a major fillip this week when powerful Finance Minister John Manley said it may be cost more in the long run not to spend money on reducing greenhouse gases.
Anderson said climate change would be discussed at Johannesburg but it will get a more thorough airing at a U.N. conference on the issue in New Delhi at the end of October.
A government report providing Canada\'s perspective on sustainable development, released last week ahead of the Johannesburg meeting, called for action in cutting transportation emissions in Canada.
\"It will be difficult to find a way to meet Canada\'s Kyoto target without significant action to reduce emissions from the transportation sector,\" the report said.
\"This sector, counting both passenger and freight, is now the largest source of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and is growing more rapidly than any other.\"
This did not mean higher taxes on fossil fuels, Anderson said.
\"Funnily enough, the price mechanism doesn\'t work very well, as they found in Britain. The price of petrol is 2-1/2 times the price of gasoline in Canada, and yet people still drive. It\'s really interesting that price has not been a very important factor in reducing consumption,\" he said.
\"So we\'re going to have to do more than that. We\'re going to have to encourage public transit.\"
He also said the government would be looking seriously in the next 12 months at encouraging the use of ethanol in gasoline. This can be made from corn or wood and as a renewable resource it would have less net emissions.
Canada agreed in Kyoto to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2008-12, but as of 1999 its emissions were 15 percent higher than in 1990.
\"There are only three of the western European countries that are anywhere near on target to reach their Kyoto target,\" Anderson said. \"We\'ve all got a lot to do.\"
The government report said most Canadians have been unwilling to make personal lifestyle changes needed to cut emissions, and the majority were largely uninformed about the stakes in debate.
It also said urban encroachment on surrounding lands needed to be curbed in Canada as part of efforts to arrest the decline in biodiversity.
Story by Randall Palmer
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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