Canada labelled 'fossil' at climate change talks

Canada took its lumps at the UN climate conference in Kenya Monday, tying with Australia in a 'fossil of the day' award and ranking near the bottom of an environmental group's list.

Canada took its lumps at the UN climate conference in Kenya Monday, tying with Australia in a "fossil of the day" award while being ranked near the bottom of an environmental group's list for efforts to combat global warming.

Opposition MPs and environmentalists from Canada, meanwhile, struck a common theme at a news conference in Nairobi, saying the federal government's lukewarm position on the Kyoto Protocol doesn't reflect Canadian public opinion.

"The majority of Canadians are firmly and strongly behind living up to our Kyoto obligations," said John Godfrey, the Liberal environment critic.

"We are here because we want the world to know that Canadians are united in their commitment to the Kyoto Protocol," said Emilie Moorehouse of the Sierra Club.

Bloc Québécois environment critic Bernard Bigras quoted federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose as saying "we are on track to meeting all our obligations under the Kyoto Protocol but not the targets."

"I don't think that's the position parliamentarians expect from the minister of the environment," he said.

A news release from Ambrose's office says the minister will highlight Canada's "first-ever legislative plan to address air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions" after she arrives in Nairobi on Tuesday.

It is apparently a reference to the Clean Air Act, which has been unanimously opposed by opposition parties and is unlikely to become law in its present form.

In an unusual move, the bill is being sent to a parliamentary committee before its second reading because opposition MPs don't support it even in principle.

Environmental group scolds Canada

The fossil award was distributed by the environmental group Climate Action Network to countries deemed to have contributed the least to progress in the climate talks.

And a Bonn-based development group, Germanwatch, placed Canada 51st out of 56 countries that were assessed for their performance and policies on climate change.

"Frankly, it's becoming embarrassing," said Steven Guilbault of Greenpeace.

Sweden, Britain and Denmark won top ranking in the report, while Canada is among the bottom 10.

The only countries ranked below Canada are Kazakhstan, United States, China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

The report ranks 56 countries that were part of a 1992 climate treaty or that contribute at least one per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The countries make up 90 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The calculations took into account emissions levels, emissions trends and climate policy.

About one-quarter of the energy consumed in Sweden in 2003 came from renewable sources— more than four times as much as the European Union average of six per cent, according to EU statistics.

The country with the worst ranking was Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter.

Kyoto treaty rejected by U.S., Australia

The United States and Australia are the only major industrialized countries to reject the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases.

Canada, as a signatory to the treaty, promised to reduce emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

However, the Conservative government has said the country cannot meet Kyoto targets for pollution reduction— a position that critics see as a virtual abandonment of the treaty, even though Canada hasn't formally pulled out.

The Conservatives have opted to concentrate on clean air and smog reduction, rather than the wider problem of climate change. Ambrose has set a goal of cutting emissions by 45 to 65 per cent from 2003 levels— by the year 2050.