domingo, abril 08, 2007

CANADA: Environmentalists, NDP urge government to take action


An international report that paints an ominous picture about the consequences of climate change has prompted strong calls for action from Canadian environmentalists and opposition parties. The document, released Friday in Brussels by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warns of major threats to the planet and humankind.

Federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said Prime Minister Stephen Harper should take immediate steps to combat climate change by endorsing a revised version of the Clean Air Act.

Climate-change report a wake-up call

The revamped bill, forged by opposition parties, would require Canada to meet its emission-cutting commitments under the Kyoto protocol and provide new ways of reducing smog and promote energy efficiency.

"The Conservative government does not take its responsibilities seriously," Dion said in a statement.

"History will judge Canada harshly if we continue on Mr. Harper’s course of undermining international efforts instead of contributing to them."

But while the Opposition used the report to slam the Conservatives for their inaction, federal Environment Minister John Baird insisted the report justifies what the government has done to address climate change. Baird released a statement that said the report underscores the urgency for action on climate change, which he insisted his government is already doing.

"The IPCC has presented further scientific evidence on the challenges Canada and the world is facing and will continue to face with climate change," said Baird, who wasn’t available for further comment.

"But this government hasn’t waited to act."

Baird noted the $4.5 billion earmarked for environment and climate-change programs in the recent budget, and said Ottawa will announce targets for mandatory reductions of greenhouse gases and air pollution in the coming weeks.

But federal NDP Leader Jack Layton accused the Conservatives of playing political games with the bill, which some speculate could lead to an election.

"Nothing is perfect, but it’s a heck of lot better than standing still," Layton said of the bill during a phone interview.

"Pointing fingers back and forth between parties to say who’s best is just resulting in our standing still in the onslaught of climate change."

Environmental activists argued developing and fulfilling a plan against climate change is no longer a political issue, but a moral one.

"It’s not . . . a choice about public policy," said Joslyn Higginson of Greenpeace Canada.

"Within the next 10 years if we don’t act . . . the impacts of climate change are going to be devastating and irreversible."

The 23-page report, which was approved by an international conference on global warming, is a summary of a much larger document written and reviewed by hundreds of scientists.

The document is the second in a series of four reports detailing the effects of global warming on the Earth and its population.

Some scientists expressed anger Friday and argued their findings were being watered down after government negotiators changed some of the summary’s wording.

Still, the report, which is intended as a policy guide for governments, foreshadows a bleak future. It says North America can expect more hurricanes, floods, wildfires and droughts. Heat waves will last longer and become more frequent and intense. Rising sea levels will swamp coastal areas.

The report also says a longer growing season could boost crop yields by five to 20 per cent, but that figure would drop significantly with a rise in temperature of about 13.8 C.

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