Ambrose slams Liberals at UN climate summit

Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose took a swipe at the former Liberal government's environmental policies Wednesday at a UN conference on global warming.

Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose took a swipe at the former Liberal government's environmental policies Wednesday at a United Nations conference on global warming in Kenya.

In athree-minute speech to the environmental summit in Nairobi, Ambrosesaid that when the Conservative government took power earlier this year, it was surprised at what it found.

"When Canada's new government assumed office this year, we found an unacceptable situation," Ambrose told delegates from about 180 countries. "We found that measures to address climate change by previous Canadian governments were insufficient and unaccountable."

The Toriesrecognizedthey couldn't work with the measures and had to rethinktheir commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, she said. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada likely won't achieve its Kyoto targets.

"Years after signing and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Canada has still not implemented a domestic plan to address climate change and the result is that Canada is now 35 per cent above our Kyoto target,"Ambrose said.

CBC reporter David McGuffin said the speech surprised some in attendance.

"It almost had more of a tone of a domestic Canadian speech in some ways than it did a speech to an international body," he said.

Ambrose didn't make any new announcements inthe speech,but did speak about mandatory limits for Canadian industry that couldcome into effect in January andCanada's long-term goals of cutting carbon emissions by 65 per cent based on 2003 standards by 2050, said McGuffin.

The speech was criticized by some in Canada's NGO community as lacking in vision, he said.

Ambrose, who spoke to reporters after her address, said she has been having positive sessions and good bilateral talks at the summit.

She said she spoke with Sir Nicholas Stern, who recently authored a report for British Prime Minister Tony Blair that warned of dire economic consequences unless global warming is confronted.

They spoke about carbon trading, which lets countries or companies thatcan't meet their emissions targets buy credits from others who achieve reductions.

Speech 'inappropriate,' say Liberals

Liberal environment critic John Godfrey rejected Ambrose's charge, saying his party had a system in place to regulate large plant emitters by 2008.

The Conservatives cancelled or limited a number of other programs, including one for wind energy and another that encouraged developing countries to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

No other speakers mentioned previous administrations during their speeches, said Godfrey, who is also attending the conference.

"It was a totally inappropriate comment in a three-minute speech to an international audience," said Godfrey, who questioned Ambrose's call to set aside partisan behaviour and work together.

"Well, maybe you wouldn’t want to start out your speech the way you did, if that's the case," he said.

Canada's position on climate change has been met with "puzzlement, disappointment and in some cases, anger," he said. A number of European countries are considering imposing taxes on countries that don't meet their Kyoto targets, said Godfrey.

Steven Guilbault, with Greenpeace Canada, called the speech "embarrassing."

"It's obvious Minister Ambrose does not understand what it is to speak to the United Nations," said Guilbault. "She came here to wash her dirty laundry in front of the whole world."

With an opportunity to assure the world Canada would play a role in the international effort to fight climate change, Ambrose "started pointing fingers," he said.

Canada not the 'bad guy'

Ambrose has been criticized for the Canadian government's new environmental position— a focus on clean air and smog reduction rather than the wider problem of climate change.

But after arriving on Tuesday, she told reporters there is "no bad guy" on climate change.

A day earlier, Canada and Australia were cited by an environmental group, the Climate Action Network, as having contributed the least to progress during the talks, receiving the group's Fossil of the Day award.

The Harper government's proposed clean air act, introduced in October, aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by between 45 and 65 per cent from 2003 levels by 2050.

Under Kyoto, however, Canada agreed to reduce emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated Canada will not likely meet those targets.

The conference is the second meeting of the Kyoto-backed countries, and the first UN climate summit in sub-Saharan Africa.