Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls for international consensus on climate change

BERLIN, GERMANY
4 June 2007

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Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Thank-you Ambassador Paul Dubois for that generous introduction.

This is my first visit to Berlin since becoming Prime Minister.

To be here in Berlin – only steps from the Brandenburg gate – is to be at the heart of Europe.

It is also to be at the heart of Germany itself – a country that symbolizes renewal and new leadership in the world. 

Like Germany, we in Canada are also renewing – both at home and abroad – through new leadership.

And our two countries share not only this characteristic but much else. Our 52-year-old year old military alliance, our mutually beneficial trade relations, and as Ambassador Dubois noted, the personal histories of nearly three million Canadians of German descent.

I don’t think either Canadians or Germans appreciate just how connected we are.

For example, the Kitchener-Waterloo region of Ontario and the Steinbach region of Manitoba were largely settled by German Mennonites.

And those communities remain distinctly German in character to this day.

One of my political forefathers was Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who was born in the Ontario village of Neustadt and whose ancestors came from Neidenstein.

And Germans constitute the second largest ethnic group in my home province. In fact, at least two premiers of Alberta can trace their ancestors to Germany.

Beyond our genealogical connections – and perhaps because of them – Canadians and Germans share many values.

I think both of our countries aspire to be authors of positive change in the world.

We both subscribe to the principles that are held in common by all civilized people: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

That’s what binds us together in the fight against political extremism and its hateful twin, terrorism.

Our troops are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with then United Nations and our NATO allies in Afghanistan.

Together we are liberating the Afghan people, who for too long have been oppressed and brutalized by the Taliban.

And we are rebuilding the shattered political and physical infrastructure of that war-ravaged country.

In particular, Germans and Canadians are partners in helping professionalize the Afghan police forces, draft new laws, establish a modern, humane corrections system, and train judges, prosecutors and public defenders.

The importance of this work cannot be overstated. We’re laying the foundations for Afghan civil society and a self-governing nation.

I was there just two weeks ago – my second trip in the 13 months – and I saw real progress.

Boys and girls back in schools.

Villages being repopulated.

A reviving economy.

And, out on the front lines, far more security and stability than existed even six months ago.

We should be very proud of what our defence personnel, diplomats and development workers are accomplishing in Afghanistan.

Their courage and their sacrifices are the tangible expression of the desire of Germans and Canadians to make our world a better, safer place.

But military and humanitarian intervention is not the only way we collaborate in pursuit of a better world.

Both of our countries are on the leading edge of international economic progress too.
 
Your GDP grew last year at its fastest pace in six years.

I note that your exports rose nearly 13% last year and, perhaps less well known, that it is Germany, not the United States or China that is world’s leading merchandise exporter.

In Canada, we are experiencing the second longest period of economic expansion in our history.

Our unemployment rate is 6.1%, its lowest level in three decades, while core inflation remains within our target range of 1-to-3 percent.

Canada is also on the best fiscal footing of any of the G-7 industrialized countries.

In fact, we are the only member of the G-7 with ongoing budget surpluses and a falling debt burden.

Our foreign indebtedness has fallen from a high of 44% of GDP to just 7%.

And our national pension system is on a sound financial footing for the next 70 years.

The Canadian economy derives much of its strength from the primary resources sector, but it’s more diversified than many people realize.

Financial services, in particular, are one of Canada’s core strengths.

And Canadians, who are among the most enthusiastic computer and Internet users on earth, have a growing profile in the information and communications technology sectors.

The ubiquitous Blackberry, for example, is a Canadian-born and -owned phenomenon.

Our economy is anchored in the North American marketplace by our Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Mexico.

It gives Canadians – and investors in the Canadian economy – secure access to the huge U.S. market.

But again, our trading relationships are not quite as one dimensional as people tend to think.

Our links to the Asia-Pacific region are growing, and we’re upgrading our West Coast port and highway infrastructure to make it the primary Gateway for Asia-Pacific trade with North America.

As a share of our total trade, our commerce with the U.S. has actually declined nearly 10% since the turn of the century.

During the same period our trade with other parts of the world, including the E.U., has been increasing.

However, despite the growing diversity of our economy, it remains true that natural resources and the U.S. market are our strongest economic assets.

Indeed, it is no exaggeration to call Canada an “emerging energy superpower” and a “global mining giant.”

We are the fifth largest energy producer in the world.  Third in global gas production.  Eighth in global oil production.  Second in the generation of hydro-electric power. 

In terms of mining, we are the world’s largest supplier of uranium.  The third largest producer of diamonds. And we are blessed with abundant supplies of nickel, gold, copper, zinc, lead, potash and coal.

Moreover – and this may be our strongest asset – in a world where much of the resource base falls within the borders of countries that are ruled by tyranny and instability, Canada is recognized as a stable democracy, a free and open market, and a reliable and responsible corporate citizen.

In other words, a safe place to invest, a sound place to do business, a bastion of world energy security, and a positive force in a troubled world.

We worked very hard to establish that reputation.

We’re proud of it.

And we intend to keep it.

That’s why we share Germany’s emphasis on major G8 Summit themes like environmental protection and corporate social responsibility.

I believe that, as President of the European Union and Chair of the G-8, Chancellor Merkel has shown great leadership and courage in pushing climate change and corporate ethics to the top of the global political agenda.

Our government is looking forward to working with her in tackling both these issues at the Heiligendamm Summit this week.

In the interests of time, allow me to focus my remarks this afternoon on the fight against climate change, perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today.

Canada may be a small contributor to global warming – our greenhouse gas emissions represent just 2% of the earth’s total – but we owe it to future generations to do whatever we can to address this world problem.

And Canadians, blessed as we are, should make a substantial contribution to confronting this challenge.

At this Summit, for the first time ever, Canada will arrive at a G-8 meeting with a real and realistic action plan on climate change.

Normally, Canada is a country that prides itself on living up to its international obligations and commitments.

But frankly, up to now, our country has been engaged in a lot of “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk” when it has come to greenhouse gases.

A decade ago our predecessors in government committed our country to the Kyoto protocol.

They said Canada would reduce its emissions to 6% below 1990 levels beginning in 2008.

And then they did practically nothing to achieve this goal. Instead, they maintained policies that pushed emissions in the other direction.

In fact, when we came to office last year, Canada’s emissions were 33% above the target and rising.

Which meant, with only months before the targets kicked in, it had become impossible to meet the Kyoto commitment without crippling our economy.

So we vowed to develop a real plan – with real, absolute, mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

A plan that’s practical, affordable and achievable.

A plan that’s balanced and market-driven.

A plan that deals with our growing economy and population.

But also a plan that achieves real, absolute, mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases and positions Canada as a leader in fighting climate change.

There are elements of our plan that could work not just for Canada, but for many countries in the world – including some of the large emitters that did not accept targets under the Kyoto protocol.

After all, the countries that did accept targets under Kyoto account for less than 30% of global emissions. 

The outsiders included major, growing emitters like China, India and the United States.

Obviously, if we really want to stop climate change, all the big emitters need to step up to the plate and must accept real targets.

It is urgent that we start work now – and this week’s Summit is the perfect opportunity – to develop a new universal consensus on how to prevent global warming in the post-2012 period.

Our own domestic plan of action has mandatory greenhouse gas reduction targets for large emitters.

Every year, large emitters must become more energy efficient and emit less carbon per unit of production – intensity improvements of 18% by 2010, and 2% a year beyond that each and every year.

And let me stress that this plan will not allow emissions to continue to grow indefinitely.

Improvements in emissions intensity of this magnitude mean that there will be real, absolute reductions in emissions levels by at least 2012 and as early as 2010.

It will put us on track to absolute greenhouse gas reductions of 20% by 2020.

And, let me be clear, Canada’s long-term target of a 60 to 70% reduction of 2006 emissions by 2050 is consistent with cutting global greenhouse gas emissions by half over 1990 levels – a goal sought by the European Union.

The approach we have chosen, basing emissions reduction targets on units of production in the short run, allows growing and developing economies to engage in significant greenhouse gas reductions without putting themselves at immediate risk.

And in the long run, I believe Chancellor Merkel and I are on the same page on this point at least: all countries must embrace ambitious absolute reduction targets, so that the International Panel on Climate Change’s goal of cutting emissions in half by 2050 can be met.

Of course, it may not be possible for all countries, or all industries and firms within all countries, to reduce their emissions by the same amount on the same time line.

That is why other compliance measures such as carbon offsets and carbon trading are also necessary.

They are part of Canada’s plan and, provided they are not just an accounting shell game, they must be part of a universal, international regime.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for all countries – especially the large emitters represented this week at the meetings of the G8 and the five major developing countries – to come together and cooperate as we move towards a post-2012 regime.

We cannot afford to have the world divided on this issue, to pit right against left, Europe against America, or the developed countries against the developing world.

We need a plan that takes into account both different starting points and different national circumstances, but that moves us all towards a common destination.

There will be much debate in the weeks and months ahead over the best course of action for the world after the end of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

In the meantime, there is much else we can do.

We’re involved in a number of international partnerships that are working to develop new technologies – from carbon sequestration to renewable fuels to clean coal - that will lead to significant emission reductions.

Indeed, the agreement signed today between Canada’s National Research Council and Germany’s Helmholtz Association will bring together some of the world’s best researchers in the fields of alternative energy, bio-fuels and other environmentally friendly energy sources.

Technology is the key. Just as the Stone Age did not end because the world ran out of stones, the Carbon Age will not end because the world runs out of fossil fuels.

Instead, human ingenuity will develop alternative forms of energy as well as cleaner, greener ways to use carbon.

And Canada will be at the forefront, as a green energy superpower.

I started my remarks by talking about the values shared by Canadians and Germans and our mutual desire to make our world a safer, better place for all of us.

We are united in the fight against terrorism.

Allied in the mission to rescue and rebuild Afghanistan.

Partnered in the development of international trade and global economic progress.

Committed to promoting collective social responsibility at home and abroad.

And devoted to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stopping global warming.

It is a long, ambitious and noble list of challenges we have set for ourselves.

But we are building on a long history of German-Canadian friendship, family ties, trade and intergovernmental cooperation.

And I look forward to building on those solid foundations to make our relationship even stronger in the years ahead.

Thank you. Danke shoen.

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