Harper set to talk climate on whirlwind European tour

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is ready to sell Canada's position on climate change as he embarks on a jam-packed European tour.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is ready to sell Canada's position on climate change as he embarks on a jam-packed European tour.

Harper, who landed in Paris on Tuesday,  is set to meet with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom in just three days, and address a United Nations bio-diversity conference and a British business meeting.

The events are a build-up to the G8 leaders economic summit in Japan in July.

"Now is an important time to meet with the European Union leaders about the agenda, including climate change and the world economy, among others," said Harper's spokeswoman, Sandra Buckler.

"This trip is a short, tightly focused journey. It is definitely a working visit," she added.

Harper is expected to reiterate his Conservative government's belief that all countries have to be included in any global plans to set climate change targets and reduce greenhouse gases, even if they are developing nations, like China and India. Harper will likely outline this position when he speaks Wednesday at the bio-diversity conference in Bonn, Germany.

'They'll be laughing at us on the international scene'

While Harper's position is shared by the U.S., most European countries are opposed to the view.

Harper's position has also drawn the ire of environmentalists, who are already criticizing his European trip as one that will produce at least 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions with flights and other travel — the equivalent of the emissions produced by 100 cars in a year. 

Steven Guilbeault, the spokesman for the Montreal-based group Equiterre, said Harper's position won't earn him any respect in Europe.

He noted that Harper's government refuses to set absolute targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and only bases its cuts on the levels of emissions the country had in 2006, not in 1990, as outlined in the international Kyoto climate change treaty. 

"They'll be laughing at us on the international scene," Guilbeault said. "We're one of the countries with the worst record."

A spokeswoman for the Sierra Club of Canada said Harper's trip is nothing more than a sales pitch.

"This trip is to show the government's approach to climate change," said Emilie Moorhouse. "This is not an approach based on measures and policies to reduce the effects of greenhouse gases.

"It is an approach that is based solely on a communications strategy that seeks to sell something completely inappropriate to the Canadian public and the international community."

Harper's trip comes as controversy erupts back home over the abrupt resignation of Maxime Bernier, who stepped down as foreign minister after admitting to a security breach involving classified documents.

News emerged Monday that he had left a classified document in his ex-girlfriend's apartment in April.

With files from the Canadian Press