Ambrose feels heat for heading UN climate-change meeting

Canada's environment minister should not be chairing a UN conference on climate change because the Conservatives have rejected Kyoto, the opposition leader said Tuesday.

Canada's environment minister is under attack for chairing a UN conference on climate change despite admitting the countrywill not meet its Kyoto Protocol targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Rona Ambrose, who is leading the May 15 to 26 meetings in Bonn, Germany, repeated her claim that Canada's targets are "unachievable."

During question period on Monday, Liberal Leader Bill Graham asked the prime minister if he saw the "irony" in having someone who "despises" Kyoto to chair the meeting in Germany.

"Why has Canada's minister of the environment arrived in Bonn without a concrete proposal to make Kyoto work?" Graham asked.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he wants Canada to help develop new targets under Kyoto.

"The irony is that the [Liberal party] missed its Kyoto target by 35per cent [and] now wants Canada to abandon our role in the international conference," Harper said. "That would be irresponsible."

Gas-emission targets 'onerous'

At the beginning of the meeting, Ambrose said "very onerous targets" have been set for us.

"I have been very honest with Canadians after the release of our greenhouse gas inventories that we will have great difficulty in meeting those targets. We believe they are unachievable," she said.

Ambrose suggested softer targets under the second phase of Kyoto after 2012. But she said Canada isn't backing down on its commitment to tackle climate change.

"The challenge we face in achieving the targets domestically has no relevance to our commitment to ensure we are contributing to the international effort to address climate change."

Ambrose said countries like Canada need more time to reach their environmental targets. Even the Paul Martin government, she said, failed to do that.

Gas emissions under the Liberals actually increased by more than30 per cent.

Worried about perception of Canada

Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are currently 35 per cent over the Kyoto goals. But environmental groups say giving up trying to achieve the proposed reductions is ruining Canada's international reputation.

"The international reputation of Canada is completely at stake right now," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wildlife Fund's global climate change program.

"If Canada is not committed, then it should step down. It shouldn't be leading this process over the next year, especially going into Africa, which is so vulnerable to the impacts of climate change."

Morgan said Canada can meet its Kyoto commitments but that it's a matter of "political will."

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who opened the talks alongside Ambrose, said Canada played a pivotal role when it hosted the key climate change summit last December.

He said heexpects Canada to continue to play a leading role in the accord.

"I hope that we will convince our colleagues from Canada that this engagement is necessary, also for this conference and other conferences, because we all have to tackle climate change."