Manitoba's Kyoto bill will be a first in Canada

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - Manitoba will be the first province to legislate its commitment to reaching Kyoto targets for greenhouse-gas emissions by 2012, Premier Gary Doer announced.

Mr. Doer said Manitoba will reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 6 per cent below 1990 levels, as called for in Canada's original commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, from 20 million tonnes to 17 million.

"We believe the federal government made a commitment to the world to meet Kyoto targets, and we're one province that can meet it," Mr. Doer said. "In spite of the fact we all curse the weather in January, our kids and our grandchildren will hopefully have a regime in North America that says to people, 'we want to protect the lakes, rivers and forests that Canada is blessed with.' That's what I believe is really important."

The government will target the few coal-burning plants in the province with a tax of $10 a tonne on coal-based greenhouse-gas emissions. It will also ban the import of automobiles built before 1995 and change legislation to allow slower electric cars such as the Zenn on Manitoba's roads, part of a broad initiative to reduce transport-related emissions by one million tonnes. All the reductions will be achieved within the province, not through credits granted for the sale of clean energy sources such as hydroelectricity, Mr. Doer said.

The province committed $145-million over four years to the plan. Some of that money will be used to encourage large-emitting companies to adopt cleaner, more energy-efficient technology.

Conservative Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen said the plan lacks teeth.

"I was surprised that after all the NDP's bravado on climate change they would announce something that would be such a dud in terms of both targets and the means they propose to get to those targets," he said, pointing out that 95 per cent of the reductions won't be achieved until after the next provincial election.

"No enforcement mechanisms, no incentives to help move any of the companies or others to that may be emitting CO2 toward the target.... In the immortal words of Marge Simpson, 'Aim low, kids. Aim so low that nobody will know when you succeed.'"

But environmental groups applauded Manitoba's proposed climate-change act.

Clare Demerse, a policy analyst at the Pembina Institute in Ottawa, said although many details need to be clarified, enshrining Kyoto targets in law is a positive step that encourages transparency and accountability. "What we're seeing is a situation where the federal government is failing to provide leadership on climate change at a time when there's a huge amount of public concern," she said. "Because of that leadership void, provinces are stepping up and taking action. That's what we've seen in B.C., Ontario, Quebec and now in Manitoba."

Mr. Doer said his government's focus on the environment is paying economic dividends. The Conference Board of Canada recently predicted Manitoba would lead the country in growth this year, in part because its manufacturing sector has concentrated on green technologies, such as lighter materials for buses and aircraft.

"The old (economic) theory was either you're growing or you're dying," Mr. Doer said. "I think in this century it's either you're greening or you're dying."


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