16 December 2007

Baird disappointed by 'watered down' Bali agreement

15/12/2007 8:22:30 PM

Canada's environment minister said he was pleased a last-minute climate change agreement was reached in Bali on Saturday, but he hoped it would have contained specific numbers and targets.

Environment Minister John Baird has concerns about the agreement reached in Bali.<br /> <em>(CBC)</em><br />
Environment Minister John Baird has concerns about the agreement reached in Bali.
(CBC)

"We were naturally disappointed in the language that weakened and watered down the agreement," John Baird told reporters in Bali, in Indonesia. "But it's better than no agreement."

The agreement, known as the Bali roadmap, was reached during marathon talks at the United Nations climate change conference that went through the night Friday and included heated arguments that left one UN official in tears.

The roadmap calls for countries to negotiate a new international climate change treaty by 2009, one that will replace the existing Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

The Bali roadmap doesn't call for specific emissions targets, but instead says any new agreement will have to recognize that "deep cuts in global emissions" are needed and that the international community must have a "long-term global goal for emissions reductions."

Baird went into the talks opposed to any agreement that would have called for countries to reduce their emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, a target Baird said Canada could never meet. The U.S. and Japan also opposed the target, which was proposed by a coalition of European countries.

However, Baird said he would have agreed to longer-term targets.

The discussion Friday night was held up by debates about China, India and other developing nations that are producing an increasing amount of emissions.

The United States initially did not agree to proposals to strongly require that rich nations help poorer nations access green technology to limit their emissions.

The U.S. stance caused delegates to boo the American delegation at the conference, and at one point a tired-looking Yvo de Boer, the UN's climate chief who hadn't slept in two days, broke down in tears over the deadlock.

Finally, U.S. negotiator Paula Dobriansky capitulated and declared she would accept the deal.

"We've listened very closely to many of our colleagues. We will go forward and join consensus," she said, as the room erupted in cheers.

Baird said he was happy the U.S. agreed to the Bali roadmap, which was approved by all 187 countries at the conference. The U.S never signed Kyoto.

But Baird said he had wanted to see firmer commitments from the world's other largest emissions emitters too - China and India.

"I think the exciting part is that America is on board, which is a good thing," Baird said.

'In the same bed as President Bush'

Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion said Baird could have helped make the Bali roadmap stronger and less watered down. Dion said that Baird instead supported the policies of American President George W. Bush.

"If Canada would have shown more leadership, [the roadmap] would have been better than that," said Dion, who was at the conference. "If Canada would have been with Europe instead of being in the same bed as President Bush, it would have been much better."

Other environmentalists lamented that all delegates, Canadian and otherwise, hadn't taken a firmer stance on the agreement.

"The people of the world wanted more," Marcelo Furtado of Greenpeace said. "They wanted binding targets."

But a climate policy analyst from the non-partisan U.S. Pew centre said there is a positive side to the roadmap.

"It puts no one on the hook right now for emissions reductions. What's important, though, is that it lets no one off the hook either," Eliot Diringer said.

Second agreement calls for hard targets

Meanwhile, delegates from the countries who ratified the Kyoto Protocol signed a second agreement in Bali. It called for developed countries like Canada to meet the 2020 targets that Europe has championed.

Baird had initially balked at this agreement but after heavy criticism from other nations, agreed to leave the target in the final text of the agreement, although he still insisted Canada would never meet that target.

The U.S. was not part of the second agreement, as it didn't sign Kyoto.

The two agreements were reached at the end of the two-week climate change conference, which was extended by a day to ensure the agreement could be reached.

The conference came after a startling report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in February said global warming was "very likely" caused by human activity.

The report forecast that average temperature will rise 1.8 C to 4 C by the year 2100 and sea levels will creep up by 17.8 centimetres to 58.4 centimetres by the end of the century.

Canada's Conservative government has been attacked for failing to address the realities of climate change.

The government crafted an environmental plan in April that only calls for Canada to reduce overall emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020. This plan means Canada will miss its Kyoto goals by years.

Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was signed by Canada in 1998 under a Liberal government, Canada is expected to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels by 2012.

Kyoto went into effect in 2005 after being ratified by 141 countries. The treaty sets different goals for different countries, giving a break to developing countries because of fears their fragile economies could fail under stiff targets.

With files from the Canadian Press and Associated Press

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