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 June 08, 2009
Canada 'bullying' developing countries over Kyoto: Environmentalists

 Ottawa, Canada --- Environmentalists say government documents show Canada's role in international climate change negotiations includes "bullying" developing countries, backpedalling on commitments and attempting to exploit divisions in Europe.

Foreign Affairs briefing notes obtained through an Access-to-Information request indicate a "deliberately provocative" Canadian strategy in negotiations to replace the Kyoto accord in Copenhagen in December, says Dale Marshall, climate change policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.

"It suggests that Canada doesn't mind exacerbating tensions between developed and developing countries and wouldn't mind if that led to a failure in the discussions," Marshall said in a weekend interview from Bonn, Germany. "Quite simply if you're looking for an agreement in Copenhagen, this is not the approach to take."

Marshall is monitoring global talks in Bonn that are preparing the way for a possible agreement among 192 countries to succeed the Kyoto accord on climate change, which expires in 2012.

He said the briefing notes "really put a lie" to the government's repeated assertion for the last few years that Canada's role is "a bridge" between the European Union --- which has called for a strong commitment to fighting climate change --- and countries such as Japan and the United States which have a weaker commitment to the process than Europe.

The notes outlining Canada's "strategic negotiating vision" say the government "seeks to leverage financial and technological assistance to extract binding emissions reductions commitments from the emerging economies."

Marshall said the notion of "extracting" commitments is a "bullying, heavy-handed" phrase that suggests developing countries have to be bribed to curb emissions, Marshall said.

"It would make a difference if Canada was to drop that line, "Marshall said. "First of all it isolates Canada, but it also creates resentment and erodes trust in these negotiations. And there already is not enough trust, especially between some of the major developing countries and the industrialized countries."

It isolates Canada, too, he said, because the Copenhagen agreement is meant to secure binding commitments for emission reductions from developed countries, but not from developing countries. Developing countries are intended only to agree to plans to curb emissions with the help of financial and technological assistance from developed countries.

"It was never expected from any developed country other than Canada and the former Bush administration that China and India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa would take on hard caps (binding commitments)," Marshall said. "Now that the Bush administration is out, Canada is completely isolated on this point."

The briefing notes also show Canada has pressed some European Union members, notably Italy and some eastern European nations, to try to seek binding commitments from China, India and other major emitters in the developing world and to convince the EU to water down its emissions reduction commitment.

The EU commitment is to reduce emissions by the year 2020 by 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels --- a range set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and contained in the documents agreed to at the global climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia in December, 2007.

"They're not looking to be a bridge; they're looking to blow up half the bridge," Marshall said.

The briefing notes state that Canada "was unsuccessful" in removing that target of 25 to 40 per cent from the Bali targets after they were agreed.

And it says "Canada's negotiating challenge is compounded by the fact that our domestic goal for 2020 is a reduction of 20 per cent from 2006 levels."

That is the equivalent of two per cent below 1990 levels, a far cry from the Bali level which is on the table in the lead-up to Copenhagen.

While the briefing notes are dated on and before December 2008, Marshall said Canada has been active at the discussions in Germany "keeping weak options on the table."

"It's duplicitous that on the one hand Canada is saying that it accepts the science and yet on the (other) hand appears quite clearly to be working hard to have its targets be weaker than what the science says is necessary, and wanting a (global) target that is weaker than the one established by the most renowned scientific body on climate change."

Source: Canwest News Service