Premier going to Copenhagen

December 7, 2009

Premier Greg Selinger and his conservation minister, Bill Blaikie, will hobnob with the likes of President Barack Obama and Prince Charles when they travel to Copenhagen this month for the international climate change summit.About 65 world leaders, including Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are to attend this month’s conference, which will seek to establish a framework for a new global warming treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. But the world is hardly united on the subject and any agreement is likely to be limited.

Blaikie and Selinger will arrive in the Danish capital Dec. 13 and stay through Dec. 19.

“The conference isn’t going to achieve what many had hoped it would achieve (an agreement on greenhouse emissions cuts),” Blaikie said in an interview this week. “The secondary hope now is that a political agreement will be reached that will maintain the momentum and create the possibility of an agreement with targets…”

Selinger and Blaikie won’t be involved in the negotiations—that’s the task of federal officials—but they will be briefed on them daily. Blaikie said the summit is “an opportunity for us to network and to arrange a whole bunch of bilateral meetings” with representatives of other so-called sub-national governments.

The two also have a meeting tentatively scheduled with Scotland’s environment minister. Scotland has an ambitious program for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Until recently, Harper would not commit to attending the conference. But that changed last week when Obama announced he would be there.

“There is some momentum now with President Obama and China going to the event. So hopefully the likelihood for (a) political agreement is stronger than it seemed to be a week or so ago,” Blaikie said.

Blaikie said the federal government’s “lack of enthusiasm” in playing a constructive role in the international negotiations leaves Canada open to criticism and perhaps a target of protest during the summit.

“I’m sure they (the feds) see it differently, but that’s how they’re seen by a lot of people and that’s unusual for Canada to come into an international conference, a multilateral event like that, with that kind of a cloud hanging over its head,” Blaikie said.

An environmental leader says Manitoba can contribute by promoting the importance of protecting boreal forests and peat lands in the fight against climate change.

“The boreal forest is the world’s largest terrestrial storehouse of carbon, so it keeps carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere,” said Ron Thiessen, Manitoba director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

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