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 October 17, 2006
Canada needs practical solutions to deal with climate change

 Vancouver, Canada (GLOBE-Net) - Without doubt Canada is facing a huge climate change challenge. The fact that our national greenhouse gas emissions are well beyond our Kyoto targets is clear. We must face that reality and move forward with a sensible, more realistic approach for managing our greenhouse gas emissions and for dealing with climate change.

What was missing in Canada's past efforts to deal with climate change was a comprehensive strategy with specific targets and well-defined responsibilities and accountabilities. Project Green was an attempt at such a strategy, but it failed, as Environment Commissioner Johanne Gélinas noted in her recent yearly audit. Her sharp critique of Canada's climate change efforts has cleared the air, making it possible for the new federal government to put in place more effective policies and programs.

Not everything from our previous effort was ineffective: Sustainable Technology Development Canada, the Weyburn CO2 Storage Project, and the Wind Power Production Incentive represent areas of progress upon which the new government can build.

The pending Clean Air Act could lead to real progress if it addresses the issue of accountability and establishes enforceable targets for emissions reduction in such areas as the transportation sector, the oil sands, and in energy generation from other carbon-based sources.

Voluntary industry initiatives have a role to play, and corporate leaders have made significant improvements in recent years to reduce the emissions intensity of their operations. Canada is a growing energy provider however, and will continue to see strong demand pulling investment dollars towards high-emission fossil fuel industries. To make real progress, a cap-and-trade system that allows market forces to allocate emissions and achieve true reductions is needed.

Environment Minister Ambrose has indicated that emissions credit trading will be possible under the forthcoming "Made in Canada" climate plan, and this is good news for everyone. By enacting a greenhouse gas trading system, Canada will benefit from what has become a preferred choice for emissions management for governments and the private sector around the world.

The second pillar of any new climate change policy should focus on technology development. Canada has strong capacity in hydrogen and fuel cell production, carbon dioxide capture and storage, sustainable building, efficient heavy-oil production, and infrastructure engineering. By encouraging investments in these areas, Canada could become a world leader in developing new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to promote sustainable development.

It is important to note that in the final analysis, the key issue is not whether Canada lives up to its international reputation on environmental matters or whether we meet the emission reduction targets of the Kyoto Protocol.

The key issue is whether in dealing with climate change the needs of all Canadians are being properly addressed. That responsibility rests ultimately with the new federal government and public servants responsible for managing climate change-related programs.

If the promised new approach for dealing with climate change achieves real emissions reductions while increasing the capacity of Canada's environment-related industries to develop winning technologies, thereby improving the quality of life for all Canadians, then we should be satisfied.

If it fails in this regard, we can expect another hard hitting report by the Environment Commissioner in the years ahead. Quite frankly, we really can't afford to waste anymore time on futile arguments about meeting or not meeting our Kyoto commitments. Climate change is real, it's here, let's get on with it.