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Canada sees Kyoto vote upping US green support

Date: 13-Dec-02
Country: CANADA
Author: David Ljunggren

U.S. President George W. Bush walked away from Kyoto on the grounds it would do too much damage to the U.S. economy but David Anderson told Reuters that he thought it was quite possible Bush would change his mind before leaving office.

After the parliamentary vote on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he intended to formally ratify the accord by the end of the year.

"We certainly believe that Canada adopting the Kyoto target and introducing measures will be encouragement for people... nationally across the United States to fight more vigorously within their own jurisdictions for a similar commitment," Anderson said in a 30-minute interview.

Canada, the European Union and Japan say Washington should do more to fight global warming because the United States is the world's biggest consumer of energy and the largest producer of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Anderson said public pressure for a change in the U.S. official position would increase as more and more people became aware of the problems caused by climate-change calamities such as drought, storms and flooding.

"As time goes on we're going to see more extreme weather events, more recognition that certain states of the American south - such as Florida and the Carolinas - are going to wind up looking a bit like North Africa," he said.

Recent studies into the water supply in regions immediately east of the Rocky Mountains showed agriculture was becoming unsustainable in many states, Anderson said.

"I think that's the kind of thing which is going to tip U.S. opinion," he said.

"I don't rule out a switch at the U.S. federal level at all before Mr Bush steps down, on the assumption he gets a second term, within the next six years. If he doesn't get a second term I think it might be even more likely," he said.

Canada has already signed an agreement with New Jersey on environmental standards and would continue talks with individual states such as New York, Massachusetts and California to boost the cause of climate change, he said.

"We hope we can work up some sort of critical mass so that, for example, the auto industry regards it as desirable to have a universal system based on standards with respect to fuel efficiency which is 25 percent above what it is today. That is technically achievable," he said.

Industry groups and several provinces say cutting greenhouse gases by the amount required under the accord would cause serious economic damage.

Anderson said the government's determination to press ahead with implementing the plan would sent a clear message to the United States, by far Canada's most important trading partner.

"The message says that there's a country which is reasonably sophisticated in terms of its industrial structure, which is capable of remarkable success on the American market with its companies, believing (this) can be done without the major economic dislocations such as the president has said will be incurred by the American economy," he said.

Kyoto obliges Canada to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. If no action is taken, Canadian emissions by 2010 are predicted to be 33 percent above the 1990 level.

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