OTTAWA - David Anderson, the federal Environment Minister, will be in Halifax today for the first leg of a cross-country tour to consult with the Canadian public about climate change and the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr. Anderson plans to outline the science behind climate change, discuss its impacts and talk about the government's plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed to be the main source of the gradual warming of the earth's temperature and the subsequent change in weather patterns. He is also scheduled to visit the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, N.S., to review a project tracking the rise in sea levels.
(It's believed that if climate change becomes severe, then the ice caps will melt, and raise ocean levels.)
Mr. Anderson also plans to visit Fredericton, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Whitehorse.
Mr. Anderson will meet with government officials, industry representatives and concerned Canadians as part of the consultations with the public the government promised would take place before Kyoto is signed.
Business groups and some provinces are opposed to Kyoto, which they say will devastate the Canadian economy.
Lorne Taylor, Alberta's Environment Minister, said in a recent interview that climate change and Kyoto agreement are two separate issues.
"You can't tie climate change and Kyoto and that's what Mr. Anderson is trying to do -- they are separate issues," Mr. Taylor said. "Kyoto will make such an insignificant difference that it doesn't matter."
Alberta, he said, does not deny climate change is taking place, but questions whether Kyoto is the right way to go.
In fact, Mr. Taylor said he will propose an alternative to Kyoto when Mr. Anderson meets with provincial ministers in May. That plan is more like a U.S. initiative that is less stringent. The United States has said it will not sign Kyoto.
Meanwhile, Peter Tabuns, Greenpeace executive director, said a poll by Decima Research shows Canadians still support Kyoto.
"Canadians couldn't be clearer. They want Canada to keep its promise and ratify Kyoto, and they simply don't find groups that fight for polluters to be credible," Mr. Tabuns said. "There is no excuse for not ratifying Kyoto by the G8 summit in June."
The Decima Research Inc. poll was conducted between March 15 and 24 with 2,008 respondents. It indicated that 78% -- including 66 % of Albertans -- wanted Canada to ratify Kyoto. Only 10 % said Canada should not ratify the treaty.
Initially, Ottawa indicated it would ratify Kyoto in June, when Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, hosts the industrial country leaders in Kananaskis, Alta.
But recently the federal government has signalled it won't seek ratification until the public, industry and provincial governments have been extensively consulted.
Last week, Mr. Chrétien wrote a letter to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters indicating a softening stand on Kyoto. Mr. Chrétien said he agreed with the business group that Kyoto should not proceed until Canadians and business understand the full implications of ratification. He also said a decision on whether to ratify would come this year.
Under Kyoto, Canada is expected to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels. Greenhouse gases are produced by the burning of fossil fuels.
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