OTTAWA - The federal government has extended funding to help the country deal with the effects of climate change, even as it sends the world a sharp warning that it has not softened its stance on greenhouse gas emissions.
Environment Minister Peter Kent said Tuesday he'll spend $150 million over five years, across 10 different programs, on climate-change adaptation.
Previous spending plans were to expire after two years.
The money will be spent on getting a better handle on how warmer temperatures will affect the economy, health, security and especially aboriginal communities.
"It's also important that the reality of climate change be well understood and proactively managed," Kent said in the text of a speech delivered in Toronto.
Kent has been under pressure to pay far more attention to the effects of climate change, above and beyond what's being done to control greenhouse-gas emissions.
Government-picked advisers at the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy have told the minister that warmer temperatures will cost Canada and its people about $5 billion a year by 2020 and will soar to as much as $43 billion a year by 2050.
The roundtable highlighted high costs to the forestry industry and along the coasts, where flooding is expected. Researchers also pointed to pressure on hospitals from increased illness and deaths due to hotter temperatures.
The largest chunk of the funding will go to Environment Canada's climate-change prediction and scenarios program. But there will also be money to look at the implications for fish, the North, public health for aboriginals and for the rest of the population and for competitiveness.
Kent also set a defiant tone for Canada's stance heading into international talks later this month on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
He warned his audience not to get sucked in by criticism about the government's environmental record and reiterated that Canada will have no part in crafting a sequel to the Kyoto protocol.
That's because the protocol does not include major emitters such as the United States and China.
"We will only support climate-change agreements that are signed and ratified by all major emitters," Kent said. "It's a straightforward, practical approach. However it's also an approach that's likely to cause some turbulence for us in the coming weeks."
Non-governmental organizations have repeatedly singled Canada out for being obstructionist during previous rounds of discussions and pushing the world toward lower emission standards.
And as Kent's comments spread across the Internet on Tuesday, environmentalists were quick to condemn both the government's record on dealing with adaptation to climate change, as well as Canada's position in global talks to slow climate change.
"Minister Kent's speech is more notable for its glaring omissions and misrepresentative statements about Canada's performance than for the $30 million per year promised for domestic climate-change adaptation," said Matt Horne, director of the Pembina Institute's climate-change program.
"The government's positioning shows a continued 'head in the sand' mentality that falls desperately short of the expectations of Canadians and the international community."
But Kent said in his speech he will continue to ignore such criticism, even if it ruffles feathers.
"We've already declared that, however acute the international pressure, we will not agree to taking on a second commitment period target under the Kyoto Protocol," he said.
"We are confident in our plan and will not be swayed — however stormy the weather at the upcoming (Durban negotiations) becomes."