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Deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions not in the cards: Prentice

Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice says he will not commit to what he calls unrealistic targets when he attends climate change talks in Poland this week.

Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice says he will not  commit to what he calls unrealistic targets when he attends climate change talks in Poland this week.

The newly-minted minister, who took over the job from John Baird after October's federal election, told CBC News he will not agree to the deep greenhouse gas emission cuts some are pushing for.

National environmental organizations and northern indigenous groups want emissions reduced by 25 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2020 and further cuts still by 2050.

But Prentice said cuts of that magnitude would hurt the economy. He'd prefer a 20 per cent reduction of 2006 levels, with a 60 per cent reduction by 2050.

"Any of the climate change objectives that we agree to have to reflect the circumstances that we have, the nature of our economy, and the fact that we are one of the world's energy suppliers," he said.

His targets are more in line with U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's plans to tackle climate change, Prentice said.

Canada is just one of 190 countries attending the United Nations climate change conference in Poznan, Poland, which started Dec. 2 and runs until Dec. 12.

The countries are trying to hammer out the next phase of the Kyoto agreement to be signed in Denmark next year.

Prentice wants all polluting countries, including China, India and the U.S., to be part of the new agreement.

Canada has already been singled out at the conference as a country that is obstructing negotiations, said Mike Buckthought, the Sierra Club of Canada's national climate change campaigner.

Since Canada is one of the countries most affected by climate change, it is time the federal government took the issue seriously, he said.

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