Provinces Grumble as Canada Pitches Kyoto Treaty
Oct 28, 7:11 pm ET
By Janet Guttsman
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Canada is still set to ratify the 1997 Kyoto treaty on global warming this year, even as its provinces grumble at its terms and insist that they should not foot the bill, Environment Minister David Anderson said on Monday.
Speaking at the end of a one-day meeting in a Halifax casino, Anderson acknowledged he did not set the agenda to ratify the treaty, which would oblige Canada to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.
But he said the chance of delay was "highly unlikely," despite complaints from the provinces that a government plan on how Canada will meet the Kyoto targets is short on detail about what ratification will cost and on who needs to act.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien says Canada will ratify the treaty by the end of this year, and that it is the federal government, not the provinces, which determines the issue.
"A plan is quite separate from ratification," Anderson said. "You can ratify today, you could have ratified yesterday, and still be developing a plan today."
The United States, Canada's biggest trading partner by far, has already rejected the treaty as being too tough on industry, and much of Canadian business would like Ottawa to follow suit, fearing costs and job losses that could follow ratification.
Even the Canadian government says that, in a worst-case scenario, ratification could cost Canada 240,000 jobs and C$21 billion ($13.5 billion) over a decade.
Provincial objections to the pact range from blunt opposition from oil-rich Alberta to irritation in Quebec that it might not be credited for progress it has already made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Almost everyone is angry about Ottawa's own conclusions on how to make the treaty work, which were announced only on Thursday.
"To suggest that this plan is woefully inadequate is I think fair comment," Ontario Energy Minister Chris Stockwell ranted during a break in proceedings. "They had from 1997 to 2002 (to decide what to do) and this is the best we've got?"
In a rare moment of unity, the provinces on Monday issued a 12-point plan on what ratification should entail, admitting that climate change was "a serious global issue" that needed to be tackled, and demanding a meeting of federal and provincial first ministers to discuss the issue at a higher level.
They said costs should be "clear, reasonable, achievable and economically sustainable" so Canada's industry could remain competitive.
Alberta Energy Minister Murray Smith said the joint statement showed that Canada was "not ready to ratify this agreement by the end of the year."
"It's impossible -- far too complex, too many regional differences," he told Reuters after the meeting, insisting that Alberta was still open for energy business.
Alberta, along with much of Canadian industry is looking for a "Made in Canada" solution that sets less stringent emission targets than those agreed internationally.
Premier Ralph Klein has even hinted that his Western province might seek to loosen ties with the rest of Canada unless the issue is resolved to Alberta's satisfaction.
Opinion polls show that most Canadians favor Kyoto ratification, and a few dozen demonstrators, two of them dressed as polar bears, pressed their case outside the casino.
"Alberta came to this meeting looking to find a friend who would hold their hand in their opposition to Kyoto," said Jo Dufay, campaigns director for environmental group Greenpeace.
"Not only did they not find anyone to hold their hand and block Kyoto, but they have been forced to come out of their corner and stop blocking Kyoto and start talking about how to implement Kyoto."
Ottawa plans more consultations about its plan before holding another gathering with the provinces on Nov. 21, probably in Toronto, to try to work out concrete details. (