In outlining Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's priorities for the country in the coming year, Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean, in a wide-ranging speech, allowed that Kyoto Protocol emission reduction deadlines will be missed, and that Canada has every intention of defending its northern shores -- and the mineral rights contained just off of them -- from foreign interests.

During the country's annual "Speech from the Throne," Jean, speaking on behalf of Harper's government, said that Canada's emissions cannot be brought to the level required under Kyoto within the compliance period, which begins on Jan. 1, 2008, just 77 days from last Tuesday's speech. She noted that at the end of 2005, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions were 33% above the Kyoto commitment.

"It is now widely understood that, because of inaction on greenhouse gases over the last decade, Canada's emissions cannot be brought to the level required under the Kyoto Protocol within the compliance period," she said. "The world is moving on to address climate change and the environment, and Canada intends to help lead the effort at home and abroad."

Jean noted that climate change is a global issue and that Canada's current government believes strongly that an effective global approach to greenhouse gas emissions must have "binding targets that apply to all major emitters, including Canada." She added that the country has already engaged the international community at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the G8 and the United Nations and will continue to press for a new international agreement that cuts global emissions in half by 2050.

"Our government will implement our national strategy to reduce Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions 60 to 70% by 2050," Jean said. "There will be a 20% reduction by 2020. Our government will bring forward the elements from Canada's Clean Air Act, which had all-party consensus, for parliamentary consideration."

The strategy will institute binding national regulations on greenhouse gas emissions across all major industrial sectors -- with requirements for emissions reductions starting this year. "Our government will also bring forward the first ever national air pollution regulations," she said. "In so doing, our government will put Canada at the forefront of clean technologies to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Our government will also establish a carbon emissions trading market that will give business the incentive to run cleaner, greener operations."

The Speech from the Throne officially opens every new session of Parliament and sets out the broad goals of the government and its strategy to accomplish those goals.

On the other major energy-related issue, Jean said the current government will protect Canada's sovereignty, focusing on the Arctic boundaries. With significant oil and natural gas reserves expected, the Arctic territory land grab began in earnest in August. Two months ago, Russia sent two small submarines to plant a national flag on the Arctic sea floor, and Canada announced plans to build a new military training center and a deepwater port in the Far North (see NGI, Aug. 13). The United States, with its Alaskan access, Norway and Denmark also claim to hold sovereignty in the region, where melting ice is improving access to new shipping lanes and natural resources.

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, nations have 10 years after ratification to prove their claims under the polar ice pack. However, the United States never ratified the treaty, which was signed by the other interested countries.

"New opportunities are emerging across the Arctic, and new challenges from other shores," Jean said. "Our government will bring forward an integrated northern strategy focused on strengthening Canada's sovereignty, protecting our environmental heritage, promoting economic and social development, and improving and devolving governance, so that northerners have greater control over their destinies."

Jean said the Canadian government will build a "world-class Arctic research station" that will be on the cutting edge of Arctic issues, including environmental science and resource development. "This station will be built by Canadians, in Canada's Arctic, and it will be there to serve the world," she said. "As part of asserting sovereignty in the Arctic, our government will complete comprehensive mapping of Canada's Arctic seabed. Never before has this part of Canada's ocean floor been fully mapped."

In defending Canada's sovereignty in the north, Jean said the country must maintain the capacity to act. As part of this plan, new Arctic patrol ships and expanded aerial surveillance will guard Canada's Far North and the Northwest Passage. As well, the size and capabilities of the Arctic Rangers will be expanded to better patrol Canada's vast Arctic territory.

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