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Canadian cities asked to back Kyoto

Whitehorse has been asked to join other cities in an effort to bolster Canadian support for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Whitehorse has been asked to join other cities in an effort to bolster Canadian support for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Monday, council was asked to pass a resolution formalizing its commitment to Kyoto’s environmental standards by the Montreal-based environmental group Green Coalition.

“I would ask you to consider this resolution,” said coalition board member Don Hobus.

“It’s a resolution that supports Kyoto — one that is patterned after the resolution that the mayor of Seattle put forth.”

In February 2005, as the Kyoto Protocol was being implemented by most of the industrialized world, Seattle mayor Greg Nickels was frustrated to see the US sitting on the sidelines.

So he introduced the US Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, calling on municipalities to meet Kyoto’s targets and put pressure on Washington to ratify it.

“If the White House isn’t going to make it happen from the top down, America’s cities can and will make it happen from the ground up,” said Nickels.

Since then, 266 US mayors representing more than 47 million Americans have passed the agreement.

Now that Canada’s new federal government has begun to back out of its Kyoto commitments, the Green Coalition has decided to follow Nickel’s grassroots strategy.

“We look at this resolution as a way of saying, ‘Well, if the federal government will not support this then we have to bring it down a level and go to the people and say it’s your responsibility ultimately to take care of this,’” Hobus told council.

In 2002, Canada, which produces about two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases, ratified the Kyoto protocol, committing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Some estimates peg Canada’s emission levels now to be 30 per cent higher than they were in 1990.

Harper has said the 2012 target is impossible, and since taking office in January, has begun dismantling almost all of Ottawa’s green initiatives.

He says he wants to replace Kyoto with a “made in Canada” plan, the details of which are set to be released in October, according to the Globe and Mail.

The Green Coalition’s resolution urges municipalities to meet or exceed Kyoto targets for reducing global warming pollution by taking actions such as expanding renewable energy sources and public transit, creating new efficiency standards for vehicles and buildings, adopting land-use policies that preserve green space and increasing recycling.

At the beginning of June, the group presented the resolution at the annual convention of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities.

Since then, Hobus has fired it off to 60 towns and cities across the country, and another 120 French versions are to be distributed to municipalities in Quebec.

He has been lobbying mayors in his immediate region of Bois-des-Filion, Quebec, and so far two towns, Rosemere and Blainville, have passed the resolution.

Several other mayors have agreed to pass it by the end of the summer, he said.

“I’ve met nothing but positive results so far.”

Hobus was in Whitehorse this week visiting family and took the opportunity to float the resolution in person.

“The territories are probably seeing the impact of global warming first, so I think it’s in their interest,” Hobus said in an interview.

“And it’s a way for them to pass the message to the rest of the country that this is not a joke, this is not a hoax, it’s actually happening and we’re seeing it firsthand.”

He says the popularity of former US Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary film An Inconvenient Truth has helped raise awareness of the global warming issue and he plans to add copies of the DVD to his campaign materials once it is released.

Hobus hopes he’ll have a decent response by mid November, when Canada chairs the next annual UN climate change conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

Conservative Environment Minister Rona Ambrose will preside over the conference, during which the Kyoto signatories are to decide on targets for after 2012.

“If Canada pulls out, imagine the message it’s sending to everybody,” said Hobus.

At the 2005 UN climate change conference in Montreal, mayor Nickels headed a special delegation, one separate from the official delegation sent by the Bush administration.

This alternate delegation was in favour of Kyoto and included mayors from across the US, including smaller middle-American communities.

“The (US mayor) movement has been an incredible success, and it just keeps growing,” said Nickel’s spokesperson Marty McOmber in an interview yesterday.

“They’re agreeing to take this issue and make their voice heard on a state and federal level to encourage action that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I don’t know if it will work the same way in Canada or not, but if the model works there that would be wonderful, because what it does is engage people in their own home towns and allow them to address what is a global issue.”

The initiative taken by the US mayors is a powerful rejection of President Bush’s narrow-mindedness on climate change, said Canadian broadcaster and environmental activist David Suzuki in an e-mail to The News.

“It should be embarrassing to him but I believe that in Canada too, it will be action at the grassroots level, by citizens, municipalities and provinces that should make our prime minister face up to the fact that Canada is especially vulnerable,” Suzuki wrote.

“People in the North, like Yukon citizens, know full well that global warming is happening and upsetting ecological systems.

“I hope the action of the mayors will make our federal government pay attention and act as most citizens of the country want.”

City administrators will present the Green Coalition’s resolution to council and seek its direction on the initiative, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

“We have the sample resolution that was provided,” Shewfelt said. “Council can adopt that or they can amend it to their liking.”

“It’ll be brought up and I’m quite sure we’ll take the steps that we need to support what this guy is doing,” said acting mayor Dave Austin.

“Let’s face it, Canada’s backed off on the thing, so in the grand scheme of things, Whitehorse is not going to have a great deal of effect,” he said.

“But what the heck, eh?

“I don’t have a problem with supporting it at all.”