UN's Ban urges Canadian PM to put environment, global poverty on G20 agenda

TORONTO (AP) — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Wednesday urged Canada's Conservative government to champion climate change and the world's poor at next month's G-20 and G-8 summits.

Ban said he wants Canada to make climate change a priority when the country hosts the G-20 — the group of leading rich and developing nations — in Toronto.

He also urged Canada to live up to its greenhouse-gas reduction targets negotiated under the Kyoto Protocol.

"Canada has a special role and special responsibility to play. I urge Canada to comply fully with the targets set out by the Kyoto Protocol. You can strengthen your mitigation target for the future," said Ban, speaking to diplomats and aid groups in Ottawa before his scheduled meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper later in the afternoon.

The Conservative leader pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol — a 1997 accord to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas pollution — after he was elected in 2006. The accord had been negotiated by the previous Liberal government and called for a 6 percent reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020 based on 1990 levels.

The Conservatives have pledged a 17 percent reduction by 2020, based on 2005 levels, which is in line with U.S. targets but not as tough as Kyoto mandates.

"I anticipate that a range of subject matters will be talked about, including climate change. This government's position is clear. We support the Copenhagen Accord, which for the first time includes all major emitters," Harper said in Parliament on Wednesday.

Ban also called the Canadian leader to press fellow G-8 leaders to live up to their previous aid commitments to poor countries and to bring money to the table during the G-8 summit this summer, which will be held in Huntsville, a town north of Toronto. The G-8 groups France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Russia.

"I'm going to ask the Prime Minister Harper, as chair of the G-8, that he must make sure that G-8 leaders come ... with their commitment delivered. I hope Prime Minister Harper will work on the phones before they come," said Ban.

The feisty UN chief also applauded the Harper Conservatives for making developing world child and maternal health a signature issue at the G-8. He said the global financial crisis is no excuse for the world's richest countries to put aid commitments on the back burner, as he pressed for more funding.

Canada has trumpeted the fact it met its commitment to double aid to Africa by this year. But Canada will freeze aid spending next year as a deficit-fighting measure. Ban also plans to meet with Canadian International Development Minister Bev Oda while in Ottawa.

Ban wants the G-20 to find money for developing countries to deal with climate change, as well. Ban planned to see Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who opposes an international bank tax that could be used to raise money for that purpose.

"I will also look to the G-20 to push for a green recovery for the global economic crisis," said Ban.

Ahead of his speech, Ban was given a letter by the Council of Canadians, an organization that advocates for social and economic policies, stating its disappointment with the government's lack of actions to address climate change.

"Canada continues to be out of sync with the commitments needed to address the climate crisis," said Andrea Harden-Donahue, a campaigner with the council.