Canada faces an uphill task meeting targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol but it has no plans to withdraw from the U.N.-brokered pact, the head of the U.N. climate change secretariat said.
NAIROBI Canada faces an uphill task meeting targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol but it has no plans to withdraw from the U.N.-brokered pact, the head of the U.N. climate change secretariat said. Canada's conservative government, elected in January, has said the Kyoto com\mitments it signed up to are unachievable, prompting fears it would follow the United States and Australia and pull out.
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said he sounded out the Canadians about their position at the start of a two-week conference in Nairobi.
"I explicitly went to the Canadians on Monday and asked them: 'what now is your formal position on staying within the Protocol?' and... they expressed no intention to withdraw," De Boer said in an interview on Thursday.
"I recognise, given where their emissions are going, it will be very difficult for Canada to achieve its target."
De Boer was speaking on the sidelines of a U.N. conference where some 189 countries are discussing a global response to climate change after present Kyoto goals expire in 2012.
Canada has struggled to keep a lid on its emissions of the heat-trapping gases which scientists say risk causing catastrophic change to the Earth's climate.
Earlier this month the government, whose power base is in the oil-rich province of Alberta, unveiled legislation to limit emissions by major polluters but not until some time between 2020 and 2025 at the earliest.
Under Kyoto, Canada has to cut its emissions by 6 percent by 2012 compared to 1990 levels, but it is exceeding this by about one-third and its emissions are on the up.
Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose said in May the country could not meet its Kyoto goal, but it has still not formally told the U.N. body which oversees the pact.
"I would need to hear a Canadian government representative tell me that," said De Boer.
"It's a huge step to say you're not going to meet a target, it's an even bigger step to withdraw from an international agreement.
"This is the place to give an indication on either of those two issues because here you are amongst the parties to the Kyoto Protocol."
Kyoto allows countries which cannot cut their own emissions to meet targets by funding cuts elsewhere, for example in developing countries, using the pact's so-called flexibility mechanisms.
"The European Union wants Canada to honour its Kyoto commitment," said the European Commission's Artur Runge-Metzger, speaking on the sidelines of the Nairobi conference on Thursday.
"We believe that the Kyoto Protocol provides for sufficient flexibility that even a country like Canada which has been seeing strongly rising emissions over the last years can achieve its Kyoto target if it wishes to do so with the right political will."
Canada's stance has drawn fire from local environmental groups.
"Canada has the tradition of being an international player," said Greenpeace Canada's Steven Guilbeault.
"We (Canada) are saying that we won't meet our Kyoto targets without even trying and that's intolerable."
Under Kyoto rules if Canada does not meet its targets by 2012 it could face sanctions such as more onerous cuts and suspension from the flexibility mechanisms, a U.N. climate body spokesman said.