BANFF, Alta. (CP) - Canada's environment minister says he will forge ahead with a bid to swap clean energy credits for Kyoto responsibilities despite harsh criticism from Europe.
David Anderson, in wrapping up a two-day meeting of G-8 environment ministers Sunday, said Canada will present a formal proposal on clean credits next month at a United Nations meeting in Whistler, B.C. He wants a break in how much greenhouse gas Canada has to reduce under the Kyoto protocol, noting that the cleaner natural gas and electricity it is exporting to the United States is less harmful to the environment.
"There's no question that this issue becomes more critical for Canada because of the United States withdrawal from the Kyoto process," Anderson said.
"And it is something we believe should be looked at on its merits and not on the basis of political position."
The Kyoto accord calls for steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 from 40 industrialized countries.
Such heat-trapping emissions are believed to cause global warming along with drastic climate shifts, droughts and other environmental catastrophes.
The United States has already said it won't ratify Kyoto because it believes implementing the plan would cripple its industries.
The G-8 European countries adamantly oppose the clean-fuel credit plan and fear Canada will use such a rebuff as an excuse to not ratify Kyoto.
"We've been in these negotiations for so long now, we've been fighting night after night about all the details in the text of the Kyoto protocol," said Margot Wallstrom, the European Union's environment commissioner.
"It would be really sad if Canada wouldn't ratify in the end," she said, adding that "the blame should not be on us, who are inside the Kyoto protocol, but rather to push the Americans to come back on board."
While Prime Minister Jean Chretien's government has said it will ratify Kyoto, it too, faces opposition from provinces and business groups who say signing the deal will cost thousands of jobs and billions of dollars.
Ottawa has yet to release Kyoto cost projections and has committed to more discussions before signing anything.
It is believed that the cost - and the opposition - would decrease substantially if Canada was allowed to use clean-fuel credits.
Earlier Sunday, the powerful German delegation also criticized the plan.
"This is not an idea that has been thought to its real final consequences," said German Environment Minister Jurgen Trittin.
Trittin said Canada could actually lose under such a scheme. For example, expensive technology imported from Germany to drastically cut Canadian emissions would result in credits going back to Europe, he said.
"That would be the consequence of the Canadian proposal - they pay for other forms of energy and the reduction under the Kyoto protocol is counted to Germany."
The issue of climate change dominated the coverage of the conference despite Anderson's efforts to deal with issues like environment-related health in developing countries, especially concerning children.
"A child dies every ten seconds - every ten seconds - think how many children have died since we started this press conference," he told reporters.
The violent protests that have characterized recent meetings of world leaders didn't materialize in Banff.
Police were out in force in this resort town as they used the meeting to help train for the G-8 leaders summit June 26-27 in Kananaskis, Alta.
There was one peaceful protest march Sunday morning by environmental activists.
About 100 demonstrators - 44 of whom were dressed as spotted owls - marched up the hill in driving sleet and snow toward the ministers' hotel from downtown Banff.
They were protesting Canada's inaction on saving the near-extinct owl and its forest habitat and denounced the failure of Canada and the U.S. to ratify Kyoto.
The protest was organized by the eco-activist group Greenpeace Canada, which made headlines Thursday, when some of its members climbed onto the roof of Ralph Klein's Calgary home to install solar panels to protest the Alberta premier's opposition to Kyoto.
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