Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Harper : Green Lite?

I think that Harper's policy has a rather low level of green in it--probably about equal to the Liberal brew if not less. However, everyone is going green in rhetoric and at least Harper is doing something concrete. He steadfastly refuses to set short term emissions caps though at least so far. I wonder why Campbell is supposedly the greenest premier given Quebec has even tougher targets.

Harper tries to match B.C.'s deep green
Ottawa will spend $200-million to cut greenhouse gases and pollution

With a report from Patrick Brethour

VANCOUVER -- With Canada's greenest premier standing beside him, Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday maintained his steadfast opposition to short-term concrete targets to reduce greenhouse gases.

"We believe the key to [environmental progress] is long-term technological innovation. That's the way to do it," Mr. Harper declared after announcing a $200-million grant to British Columbia for projects aimed at reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

"What the government will not consider is short-term damage to the economy or shutting down the economy in the short run to meet targets," he said.

Standing next to the Prime Minister was B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, whose government has set the toughest targets in the country to cut greenhouse gases, although it will not try to match Quebec's goal of meeting targets laid out by the Kyoto Accord for 2012.

With his reluctance to embrace specific, more immediate reductions in greenhouse gases, Mr. Harper is rapidly being left behind by other political leaders.

Only hours before yesterday's news conference here, British Prime Minister Tony Blair became the latest to get onto the green bandwagon, introducing legislation to reduce emissions by up to 32 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020.

Mr. Campbell declined to step into the controversy over the federal Conservatives' apparent dislike of concrete targets.

"That's up to the Prime Minister," he said. "In British Columbia, we are trying to focus people's attention on targets that will actually succeed.

"By doing that, we can build momentum and I believe we will surprise everybody."

Without mentioning the federal government specifically, Mr. Campbell said he hoped B.C.'s plan to combat global warming will be "a model that others will follow."

B.C. has pledged a 10-per-cent cut in the 1990 level of greenhouse-gas emissions in the province by 2020, an overall reduction of 33 per cent.

Mr. Harper said his government will set new greenhouse-gas emission targets within the next month, including a compulsory, regulatory requirement for industry.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Canada campus building at the University of B.C., his fourth stop on a cross-Canada journey to dole out provincial allocations, based on population, from Ottawa's $1.5-billion Canada EcoTrust fund.

The $200-million for B.C. will go toward emission-reduction projects, such as capturing biogas from landfill sites, providing clean electricity to remote rural areas and development of a network of hydrogen fuelling stations, along a so-called "hydrogen highway" for vehicles powered by fuel cells.

The Prime Minister did not touch on complaints from Ecotrust Canada, a well-known non-profit environmental organization, that the title of the Conservatives' program -- Canada EcoTrust -- infringes on their long-established name.

However, Ecotrust Canada founding chairwoman Jacqueline Koerner, who showed up for the announcement, said she was approached privately by someone from the Prime Minister's Office and promised a meeting with Mr. Baird.

"At first, I thought I was going to be removed, but I was then pleased it led to a very different result," Ms. Koerner said.

Meanwhile, just before Mr. Harper took the stage, the group of burly security officers that regularly accompany the Prime Minister was pressed into action to prevent a lone protester from nearing the area of the event.

The unidentified man squirmed, and screamed something about a "two-year cover-up", as officers wrestled him to the ground and, with difficulty, handcuffed him.

The man was whisked from the scene in a police car without ever coming near the Prime Minister.

Speaking only a few blocks away, Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion said Mr. Harper is simply recycling Liberal policies that he scrapped a year ago.

Contradicting the Prime Minister's assertion that the EcoTrust program is new money, Mr. Dion said the Conservative government is in fact cutting in half the amount of cash that the Liberals would have spent.

Yesterday's announcement on climate change is part of a wider "con job" in which the Tories have slashed cash for programs, then partly restored it and claimed they were launching new initiatives, Mr. Dion said during a morning speech.

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