From: Associated Press
Published September 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Canada's Environment Commissioner Calls for Massive Scale Up in Climate Efforts

OTTAWA — In a challenge to the Conservative prime minister, Canada's independent environment commissioner called Thursday for stepping up the country's efforts to combat global warming.

In a hard-hitting report, Federal Environment Commissioner Johanne Gelinas also criticized the former Liberal government's attempts to curb greenhouse gases and called for a massive increase in Canada's efforts to combat and prepare for climate change.

"The government urgently needs a believable, clear and realistic plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said the report. "It must establish and commit to short-and long-term national goals.

"The current government has announced that Canada cannot realistically meet its Kyoto target. If so, then new targets should take its place."

Under the terms of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Canada is committed to a 6 percent cut in greenhouse emissions from 1990 levels by 2012. Canada's emissions are now 30 percent above 1990 levels.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Rona Ambrose are working on a new environment plan, Green Plan 2, but their comments to date suggest they intend to focus on smog rather than global warming.

Gelinas' forceful comments could raise problems for any strategy that plays down global warming or gives it secondary ranking. The environment commissioner is part of government's Auditor General's Office.

"Canada is at a historic juncture in its climate change file," Gelinas said. "The current government says it wants to significantly improve the poor track record to date."

Neither Harper nor Ambrose has acknowledged the impact of climate change, preferring to speak of the problem in a hypothetical way, but Gelinas says the disruptions are real.

"The impacts are already being felt from coast to coast to coast and in almost every region and in many sectors of the economy," she said. "Hundreds of communities depend on natural resource sectors that are sensitive to climate change, such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry. The impacts are expected to worsen."

Among the risks she cited in the report are the spread of pests and diseases, drought in the prairies, melting permafrost and destabilized infrastructure in the North, rising sea levels and more intense storms on the coasts, and more days of extreme heat and smog in large urban centers.

The commissioner came down hard on the oil sector, saying its greenhouse emissions have increased more than 50 percent since 1990 and that emissions from Canada's oil sands projects in Alberta could double by 2015, countering efforts to cut emissions in other sectors unless new technologies are adopted.

Source: Associated Press

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