National Post
Judith Robinson and Katherine Laidlaw
Monday, October 4, 2010

Environment Minister Jim Prentice unveiled details on how the government will spend $400-million previously pledged in international aid funds to fight climate change during a weekend climate conference in Waterloo.

Mr. Prentice said the money, which the Harper government initially committed to at last year's Copenhagen summit, will go toward adaptation, clean energy, forests and agriculture in developing countries. The donation will be part of a $30-billion fund created by richer countries for developing nations to access.

"We must help the most vulnerable countries to ensure that they are able to deal with climate change," he said in comments made on Friday. He said the donation to assist with international climate change is the largest in Canada's history.

The majority of the funds-- $285.7-million -- will go to the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, for clean-energy projects in developing countries. Forty million dollars will go to the World Bank's forestry fund to help prevent deforestation and forest degradation.

The Least Developed Countries Fund will receive $20-million to help poor and vulnerable nations adapt to climate-related problems. The International Development Research Centre will receive $10-million for their Climate Change Adaptation in Africa program. The world food program, Haiti and Vietnam will also receive funding, as well as other small-scale projects in developing nations.

Canada will also contribute an additional $238.4-million to the Global Environment Facility, a global environment fund, over the next four years, Mr. Prentice said.

Calling himself a "conservationist," Mr. Prentice stressed the need to make greener choices and develop an economy that rests more lightly on the planet. He said that Canada's 54 coal burning plants, currently in the process of being phased out, will be replaced by wind and more sustainable technologies. This will reduce Canada's energy emissions by 60%.

"No one else in the world is doing this," he said. "We are creating a governance model for a greener economy."

Mr. Prentice, who initially announced the $400-million donation during the G8/G20 summit in June, outlined the government's plan for the money at the CIGI '10 Climate of Action conference this weekend. CIGI, or the Centre for International Governance Innovation, is a think-tank founded by Research In Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie, who was in attendance at the conference.

Sir David King, director of the Smith School at Oxford University, addressed the international gathering of environmental experts, politicians and researchers via video and called Canada's commitment to reduce carbon emissions at Copenhagen "the most disappointing" of any nation. The scientist said he feels the "most positive" about the way that the developing nations are handling the situation.

Other speakers at the conference echoed Mr. King's belief that Canada is not doing enough. Senator Elizabeth Thompson, Shyam Saran, the former minister of the environment from Barbados, and former Indian foreign secretary and CIGI chairman Thomas Homer-Dixon all added that there has been a lot of talk, but not enough action.

Although Mr. Prentice called Canada "the world's cleanest super-power," he admitted that when times are tough, the environment slides down in priority. The economy is always first, followed by health care and then the environment, he said.