Environmentalists say government documents show Canada's role in international climate change negotiations includes "bullying" developing countries, backpedalling on commitments and attempting to exploit divisions in Europe.
Foreign Affairs briefing notes obtained through an Access-to-Information request indicate a "deliberately provocative" Canadian strategy in negotiations to replace the Kyoto accord in Copenhagen in December, says Dale Marshall, climate change policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.
"It suggests that Canada doesn't mind exacerbating tensions between developed and developing countries and wouldn't mind if that led to a failure in the discussions," Marshall said in a weekend interview from Bonn, Germany. "Quite simply if you're looking for an agreement in Copenhagen, this is not the approach to take."
Marshall is monitoring global talks in Bonn that are preparing the way for a possible agreement among 192 countries to succeed the Kyoto accord on climate change, which expires in 2012.
He said the briefing notes "really put a lie" to the government's repeated assertion for the last few years that Canada's role is "a bridge" between the European Union -- which has called for a strong commitment to fighting climate change -- and countries such as Japan and the United States which have a weaker commitment to the process than Europe.
The notes outlining Canada's "strategic negotiating vision" say the government "seeks to leverage financial and technological assistance to extract binding emissions reductions commitments from the emerging economies."
Marshall said the notion of "extracting" commitments is a "bullying, heavy-handed" phrase that suggests developing countries have to be bribed to curb emissions, Marshall said.
"It would make a difference if Canada was to drop that line, "Marshall said. "First of all it isolates Canada, but it also creates resentment and erodes trust in these negotiations. And there already is not enough trust, especially between some of the major developing countries and the industrialized countries."
It isolates Canada, too, he said, because the Copenhagen agreement is meant to secure binding commitments for emission reductions from developed countries, but not from developing countries. Developing countries are intended only to agree to plans to curb emissions with the help of financial and technological assistance from developed countries.
"It was never expected from any developed country other than Canada and the former Bush administration that China and India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa would take on hard caps (binding commitments)," Marshall said. "Now that the Bush administration is out, Canada is completely isolated on this point."By Juliet O'Neil © Copyright (c) Canwest News Service