Harper to attend Copenhagen
As recently as this morning, the Toronto Star reported that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would not attend the global climate change negotiations in Copenhagen next month. Later in the day, Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Harper, told reporters in Ottawa that Harper will be travelling to Copenhagen in December. The Prime Minister's change of heart was no doubt prompted significantly by the White House's announcement yesterday that President Obama would be attending the talks.
That the Prime Minister decided to attend after learning that the President would be there is consistent with Ottawa's strategy of sticking close to the US in the negotiations. In a comment posted this morning by the National Post, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice again emphasized that "we will do exactly what we have consistently said we would do: We will match U.S. efforts." In Minister Prentice's assessment, the President's recently announced intention to pledge to reduce his country's carbon emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 is essentially the same as Canada's Turning the Corner commitment to reduce emissions to 20% below 2006 levels by 2020.
Notwithstanding any alignment with US goals, some people still feel that Canada should be committing to deeper cuts at Copenhagen. Such was the message of protesters that staged a sit-in at Minister Prentice's Calgary constituency office earlier this week. Some provincial leaders would agree: BC, Ontario and Quebec have recently set more ambitous reduction targets.
While prospects for finalizing a comprehensive post-Kyoto agreement this year remain virtually non-existent, it is very encouraging that national leaders like Prime Minister Harper and President Obama will make appearances in Copenhagen. Hopefully, their presence will help negotiators forge what Minister Prentice describes as "a political agreement that can generate the momentum required to forge a broader, more specific and comprehensive document over the course of 2010."