BANFF, Alta. (CP) - David Anderson bristled at suggestions he is selling out the environment to corporate interests as G-8 environment ministers gathered Friday for a weekend meeting. Canada's environment minister was put on the defensive early as a draft version of the ministers' final communique was leaked before the meeting began.
The Council of Canadians charged that the leaked document proved Canada was forsaking its environmental obligations in favour of global free trade.
"It's very clear that they've agreed to be subservient to an agenda of unlimited growth and unregulated free trade and increased investment," council chairwoman Maude Barlow said Friday.
"I think it's a pathetic excuse for saving the world's environment."
The communique suggests that ministers have already decided that a major United Nations environment meeting in South Africa this August will put corporate interests first, said Barlow.
Anderson scoffed at suggestions that he was selling out, saying the private sector needed to be involved in any environmental plan.
"Yes, we should put corporate interests forward because we need to enlist the business community and the skills of the international business community," he said.
Anderson said the private sector invests five times more than governments in developing countries.
"So to the extent that Maude Barlow is saying we're going to put some emphasis and encourage the private sector, I say she's right," he said.
"And I say she should probably be criticizing us for not doing it before."
Canada's environment minister said he wasn't embarassed that the draft communique had leaked out before the meeting even starts.
"Yes, normally this is not released before the meeting, but the fact that it has doesn't get me very excited."
Anderson was, however, disappointed that the European Union's environment commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, reportedly plans to condemn Canada's key strategy for implementing the Kyoto climate change accord.
Canada hopes to get a large break on its emission reduction requirements because it ships so much cleaner oil, natural gas and electricity to the United States.
"I think we have to go back to 'What is the objective of Kyoto?' " said Anderson. "The objective is to make sure we reduce greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere, and clean energy exports do that."
While Ottawa has not released official estimates on the cost to Canada to ratify the Kyoto accord, unofficial estimates have ranged from $10 billion to $15 billion over five years.
If Canada could secure credits for its cleaner energy exports, it would substantially lower the costs for ratifying the accord. It would also help pacify some of the more vocal Canadian critics of Kyoto, including the oil and gas industry, business groups, and energy-rich Alberta.
Anderson said a technical analysis of clean energy exports has shown that they help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
He said he was "a little worried" that Wallstrom would "make a political decision to overrule the technical analysis."
Of the G-8 countries, only the United States has refused to ratify Kyoto. It has opted for a more voluntary system to reduce emissions.
The official agenda for the environment ministers from Canada, Europe, Russia, Japan and the U.S. is to enlist developing nations to take action on environmental problems and health-related concerns, especially in children.
Stakeholders mad Kyoto accord not full part of G-8 environment talks in Banff
By Carol Harrington
BANFF, Alta. (CP) - Anger that the Kyoto climate accord is not on the agenda at the G-8 environment ministers meeting this weekend boiled over Friday at a session of a diverse group of stakeholders.
Some enviromentalists accused the federal government of pandering to the United States, the only G-8 country that refuses to ratify the deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"I think it's an outrage," said Jo Dufay of Greenpeace Canada.
"If Canada can't even put Kyoto ratification - the most environmental issue - on the formal agenda for discussion at this meeting, what is the commitment of this minister and this government?" she asked.
"I think that the influence of the United States has unfortunately ruled this right off the agenda."
Federal Environment Minister David Anderson pointed out he has just finished a cross-country tour to sell the Kyoto Accord to Canadians.
"I don't quite know what they (environmentalists) are talking about," he said. "I don't think we should assume that because climate change is important no other issues are important."
Anderson said his biggest priority this weekend is to try to set an agenda for a United Nations environment meeting in Johannesburg this summer. He wants to raise how the environment is negatively affecting children's health and also sustainable development.
He pointed out that climate change will be discussed at a 45-minute breakfast meeting Saturday.
The two-hour meeting Friday with Anderson, some of his G-8 counterparts and 25 stakeholders included labour leaders, aboriginals, youths and environmentalists.
Anderson said he's concerned there are "innumerable" international agreements that were signed years ago but still aren't implemented.
Jim Pissot, executive director of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, said briefing documents for the ministers' meeting state that environmental progress is lagging more and more each year.
"The Kyoto Accord is one example of that," he said. "And I think if one cannot address the Kyoto issue after having made commitments around the world, then it certainly makes other commitments ring rather hollow, don't you think?"
Myroslava Tataryn, a youth delegate from Kingston, Ont., was upset the G-8 ministers meeting is behind closed doors.
"This is not acceptable," she said. "We are trying to work towards a more equitable world and yet there are no observers."
Anderson said he preferred a closed meeting to discuss sensitive issues.
"We want to have full, frank discussion," he said. "It's just impossible to have proper discussions of this type . . . if it is opened to the media and opened to the public. It's just not possible."
Scores of police officers were scattered throughout the Rocky Mountain resort town of Banff to deal with the influx of politicians, stakeholders and reporters. Uniformed and plain-clothed RCMP were riding bicycles, strolling the streets and huddled in the lobby of the hotel where the ministers are meeting.
"We certainly have sufficient officers here. Should we be required to protect the citizens of Banff, we'd be in a position to do that," RCMP Cpl. Jamie Johnston said.
But mostly police were in town to gear up for the summit of G-8 leaders in June in Kananaskis, Alta., just down the highway.
"This also allows our people who are providing security for the international protected persons to practise together as a group," Johnston said. "It allows us to perfect that use of those resources."
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