Politics

China needs 'more action' on emissions: Baird

Environment Minister John Baird calls on China to "take more action" on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, during the first day of the UN climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico.
Environment Minister John Baird has indicated he wants an international binding agreement that will see emissions stabilize and then decline. ((Pawel Dwulit/Canadian )

Canadian Environment Minister John Baird called on China Wednesday to "take more action" on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, during the first day of the UN climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico.

"I think a country like China, with $1.7 trillion in foreign currency reserve, could take more action," Baird told reporters.

The comment is the latest in a tit-for-tat between Canada and China about the Kyoto Protocol. China has accused Canada of trying to kill the anti-global warming treaty when it expires in 2012.

Of the 193 countries that have ratified Kyoto since its adoption in 1997, less than a fifth — all highly industrialized countries — are legally bound to meet their emissions limitation and reduction commitments. The rest, developing nations including China, do not need to begin making emissions cuts until 2012.

"You can't reduce global emissions with only 37 countries out of 193," Baird told reporters. "Anyone who says that is wrong."

Baird has indicated he wants a new, international binding agreement that will see emissions stabilize and then decline. Commenting Wednesday, he said he also wants the agreement to apply to all emitters, including developing nations.

But he said some small developing countries like Grenada and Tuvalu should get a break.

"No one is expecting countries of that size to take hard targets," he said.  

Representatives from 194 countries are in Cancun for the UN Climate Change Conference, which ends Friday. They're trying to hammer out a new deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Canada's profile at the climate talks is low, said John Drexhage, the director of the climate change and energy program at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, adding Baird's war of words with China also has little importance

"This kind of back and forth … about who can do more on targets, frankly, within the negotiations, it doesn't have a huge impact, in my view," Drexhage said from Cancun.

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