Harper commits to stopping fossil-fuel use in Canada by end of the 21st century

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany — Although his children will not likely be around to see it, Prime Minister committed fossil-fuel rich Monday to ending all production and use of carbon-based energy by the end of the 21st century.

This cautious softening of the prime minister’s usual staunch defence of Canada’s energy sector was matched by the other G7 leaders in the closing declaration they issued at the end of their two-day summit.

It was one of the very few commitments made the summiteers made before leaving this alpine resort town in Bavaria on Monday.

Harper seemed to have caught a break on Monday when a discussion on climate change that would have put Canada on the hot seat was cut to half an hour at the G7 Summit so that leaders could devote more time to Harper’s favourite international subject — global security.

But the leaders at the summit did take the time to draft a communique pledging to end all carbon emissions by 2100 and to hit lowered targets by 2050. And Harper’s response staked out unexpected territory for a country with huge fossil fuel reserves, stating that Canada’s energy producers must be ready to transform their industries with new technologies.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldTHE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldPrime Minister Stephen Harper gives his closing remarks at a news conference following the G7 Summit in Garmisch, Germany on Monday, June 8, 2015.

It is “not just 2050 or the end of the century, but 2030, the kind of targets we are talking about will require a transformation in our energy sector,” the prime minister said.

“We should not fool ourselves. Nobody is going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights. We have to find a way to lower carbon emitting energy.”

Harper also took time out from summit meetings to respond to an election commitment by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair to open a constitutional dialogue with the provinces to abolish the Senate.

“I don’t think Canadians have any appetite to return to long, drawn out, sustained constitutional negotiations,” Harper said. “I think that that era is past us and everybody is happy that it is past us.”

Back in talks about international security issues, Harper used his last high level international meeting before a fall election to hammer away at the need for western nations to ensure has secure supplies of oil and gas. remains heavily dependent on Russia for its energy supplies.

Whether Harper had much influence or not, the G7 leaders also declared this weekend that they they would not “roll back” sanctions against Russia until the country respected Ukraine’s sovereignty and got its proxies to adhere to a peace agreement signed in February. Forces loyal to Moscow have repeatedly ignored that agreement in recent days by using heavy weapons that have caused Ukrainian forces to respond with heavy weapons of their own.

For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said even tougher sanctions would be on the table if the situation warranted. Talks about what further sanctions might entail were ongoing, Harper said, and would be invoked if Putin’s behaviour “escalated” further.

In addition to sanctions against the Russia, Harper was particularly blunt about President ’s exclusion from the summit meetings: “The G7 is a group of countries that share fundamental values and objectives in the . We share similar economics, similar values and deep, progressive commitments to democracy, freedom, human rights and law,” he said. “Mr. Putin fits none of these definitions.”

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Having Putin at previous summit meetings was “unproductive,” Harper added, because he “makes it his business to be deliberately troublesome, to throw a spanner in the works whenever he can.”

Other international security issues included discussions about the rise of ISIL and like-minded terrorist groups in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Harper explained to the other leaders Canada’s role in bombing ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria, and in sending advisors to identify targets on the ground and train Kurdish Peshmerga. Canada has been more active militarily against ISIL than any western country except the U.S.

Among the other topics discussed on the final day of the G7 summit were how member nations might respond to the fallout from Greece’s looming financial collapse and its possible exit from the Euro.

Harper’s next stop on a whirlwind six days in Europe is Poland. And on Thursday, the prime minister will have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

National Post

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