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Climate debate has moved beyond targets to policies, says Pembina director

Cancun hailed as success amid climate debate shift

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The debate around climate change has moved beyond targets, a director with the Pembina Institute said in Whistler on Sunday.

In an event presented by the Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue, Matt Horne, project director for the organization that seeks to advance sustainable energy solutions, said the climate debate no longer focuses on emissions targets, with the recent Cancun conference being just one example.

"We're past the point of saying the target's been set," he said. "At Kyoto, there was a lot of jubilation. We ratify Kyoto, problem solved. There's recognition now you're going to need policies."

Sunday's discussion, titled New Financial Tools to Slow Global Warming and Protect Mountain Environments, was organized in recognition of International Mountain Day.

Horne said the Cancun conference, which wrapped up on Dec. 11, helped set up a Green Planet Fund to be administered by the World Bank that includes a goal to raise an annual $100 million in climate aid for poor countries by 2020.

"My sense is that the biggest outcome of this is there is renewed agreement there will be a binding agreement by the end of 2011," Horne said. "There's certainly big, outstanding questions not resolved in Cancun, like really what happens to Kyoto. That was and still is the only binding agreement on climate change, from an international perspective.

"There are binding commitments that Canada and other countries agreed to that we are nowhere near achieving. But what happens with those, that wasn't resolved in Cancun."

The Kyoto Protocol, an agreement by participants in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has been signed and ratified by 191 states around the world and it commits signatories to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions to prevent interference with the climate.

Canada signed on to the Protocol in 1998 with a commitment to reduce its emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

John Fraser, a Whistler resident, former cabinet minister and Canada's former ambassador for the environment, also attended the event. He said he was present at Kyoto and that he approached Paul Heinbecker, Canada's senior public servant at the time, and asked whether anyone knew how the country would achieve those targets.

"I said, does anyone know how we're going to do it? And of course very little was done in the ensuing years," Fraser said. "So you've got the two largest political parties, the Conservatives and Liberals, neither getting much credit for what Canada should have done or should be doing."

The country has not met its commitments under Kyoto, instead seeing its emissions rise to anywhere between 24 and 26 per cent above 1990 levels as of 2006.

Since being elected in 2006, the Conservative government has steadfastly refused to meet those targets, saying at the 2007 Bali conference on climate change that China and India, signatories to Kyoto who were not committed to any emissions reductions, should also be required to meet tough targets.

The 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen was largely seen as a failure, with a small group of countries crafting an agreement behind closed doors that was later rejected by delegates.

Cancun, Horne said, has restored to some degree the verve of countries to avoid the world's climate rising more than two degrees.

"But if you look at the targets countries have come up with, it won't happen," he said. "Every country has submitted the targets they're working towards. If you add all those up, it gives us a certain number of emissions. If we hit those emissions, we'll exceed two degrees of warming."

Targets, he said, are useless without the policies in place to implement them.

 

 

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