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Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 08:51 GMT
Canadian parliament backs Kyoto protocol
Smoking chimneys
Canadians use a large amount of fuel
The Canadian House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly in support of the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The 195-77 vote was non-binding, but Prime Minister Jean Chretien had already signalled his intention to ratify the agreement by the end of the year if it was approved by parliament.

It's really excellent, a good indication of the wishes of the country and the Canadian people

Environment Minister David Anderson
The vote came despite opposition from several of Canada's more powerful provinces, who fear the treaty could harm the country's economy - and followed days of delay tactics by the official opposition party, the Canadian Alliance.

Canada's decision is in stark contrast to the position of the neighbouring United States, where President George W Bush has rejected the accord.

Fierce opposition

Prime Minister Chretien and his governing Liberals have been determined to push through Canada's ratification of Kyoto for some time, says a BBC correspondent in Toronto.

"It's really excellent, a good indication of the wishes of the country and the Canadian people," said Environment Minister David Anderson.

Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien
Jean Chretien is retiring in just over a year
But the Canadian Alliance blasted the ratification plan as "a gross mistake for Canada".

The plan to ratify the accord has become the largest strain on Canadian national unity since Quebec came close to voting for secession in 1995, our correspondent says.

The premier of oil-rich Alberta, Ralph Klein, has opposed Kyoto at every turn and even funded television advertisements to convince Albertans that the treaty's implementation would cost jobs.

But Mr Chretien remained defiant. He is retiring in just over a year, and critics say he can afford to make a grand gesture in an effort to enhance his legacy.

High energy use

The Kyoto protocol obliges Canada to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6% from 1990 levels by 2012.

Opinion polls show that Canadians are more concerned about global warming than their neighbours in the US.

But paradoxically the two nations have a similar penchant for petrol-guzzling vehicles and other wasteful forms of energy consumption.

Canada remains a huge consumer of energy - and if no action is taken, Canadian emissions by 2010 are predicted to be 33% above 1990 levels.

Critics say that habits must change if the country has any hope of living up to its Kyoto commitments.


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