CLIMATE-CHANGE CONFERENCE: Key developments on Day 1 of 192-country summit

December 9, 2009

Canada called for a long-term agreement that would see global emissions peak by 2020 and cut in half by 2050, with industrialized countries leading the way by reducing emissions by up to 80 per cent. The government also called for Canada to specifically take on a less ambitious goal than other developed countries in that time, with a goal of reducing Canadian emissions by up to 70 per cent from 2006 levels. The Harper government has been criticized for adopting a goal of reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions roughly to 1990 levels by 2020.

The Tories say they won’t sign any deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol unless developing countries also adopt tough targets. However, 64 per cent of respondents to a Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey said rich nations have a responsibility to commit to higher and tougher targets than developing countries. Most also want to see a binding agreement come out of Copenhagen, independent of the U.S.

The United States delivered a welcome boost Monday to the conference by saying greenhouse gases blamed for global warming should be regulated as a health hazard, allowing it to regulate emissions without going through Congress or the Senate. This would give U.S. negotiators freedom to make commitments without needing approval from U.S. lawmakers.

Some 15,000 delegates, environmentalists, business lobbyists, journalists and others gathered for the pivotal talks Monday, along with thousands more outside planning protests, street theatre and scholarly discussions. The colourful global show demonstrates the future of the Earth’s climate is the future of everyone, from Inuit and Prairie farmers, to oil sheiks and African peasants.

The conference climax will come when U.S. President Barack Obama and more than 100 other national leaders arrive for the final hours of talks next week. In preparation, Obama was meeting with former vice-president Al Gore, a leading climate campaigner, at the White House on Monday.

As talks have dragged on for two decades, the planet has continued to warm, something scientists blame on carbon dioxide and other emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Today, the World Meteorological Organization is expected to announce that 2009 ranks as one of the warmest years on record, and this decade as the warmest.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 8, 2009 A3

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