Canada pushing for climate deal: Prentice

Violent protests and deadlocked talks await Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Copenhagen as negotiators try to finalize a climate deal.

Violent protests and deadlocked talks await Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Copenhagen as negotiators try to finalize a climate deal.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice told CBC News on Wednesday that negotiators have been working "night and day" to try to put together an agreement that can be presented to world leaders when they arrive Thursday at the United Nations summit.

The draft texts being debated hinge on four key issues:

Emissions cuts: Industrialized nations are being pressured to cut back on emissions, while major developing nations like China and India are being asked to curb emission growth.

Financing:  Richer nations are being asked to finance initiatives to help fight climate change in developing nations, but there is disagreement over how much climate aid should be given, and how it should be distributed.

Monitoring:   The U.S. and developed nations are pushing for international verification of emissions actions by developing nations, but China, India and others are resisting any verification program.

Legal Form:  Some nations want to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, while others — including the U.S. — would like a separate agreement that includes major developing nations.

Harper faces heavy criticism from developing countries and environmentalists who accuse the Canadian government of failing to make concessions to help reach a deal.

But Prentice said Wednesday that Canada’s position isn’t limiting negotiations.

"Canada’s position is that we will reduce our emissions by 20 per cent by 2020," Prentice said. "That position by Canada is not the issue that is a barrier at this point in time."

Prentice called on the Danish hosts to pull countries together to create a draft text that could help push negotiations forward.

"We’re here to negotiate. We want to see a deal, but we have to have a process that we can move forward with and time is passing by," Prentice said.

He also said that documents obtained by CBC News that suggest that the Tories want to harmonize their approach to cutting greenhouse gases with that of the United States and have considered allowing weaker targets for the oil and gas sector do not represent government policy.

Police detain protesters at climate summit

Police officers stand in line in front of protesters during a demonstration outside the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen. ((Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters))
Meanwhile, turmoil erupted Wednesday both inside and outside the conference in the Danish capital.

Police used batons and tear gas to break up demonstrations meant to disrupt the conference.

A police spokesman said about 230 activists were detained after they tried to get through the security perimeter around the Bella Centre, the suburban site where the conference is being held.

YOUR REPORT: Witnessing the Copenhagen protests? Send us your photos or video.

Protesters had said they wanted to take over the conference and turn it into a "people's assembly."

Inside the conference, events also appeared to be in upheaval.

With just days left in the summit, Connie Hedegaard, the Danish president of the conference, resigned. She will be replaced by Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen as the formal head of the talks.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said Hedegaard will continue to lead informal talks.

Also on Wednesday, members of non-government organizations staged a walkout from the Bella Centre. Activists, upset with the fact that many NGOs were not granted access to the meeting centre, hoped to disrupt a major plenary session with world leaders.


with files from The Canadian Press