WASHINGTON - Canada has joined the United States and four other countries in efforts to cut emissions of common, short-lived pollutants even as it's facing questions internationally about its true commitment to fighting climate change.
Environment Minister Peter Kent was in the U.S. capital on Thursday, appearing alongside U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to announce the five-year initiative.
He said the coalition, which also includes Bangladesh, Ghana, Mexico and Sweden, will "reduce emissions, help counter climate change, and work towards delivering a global solution to this global problem."
"This is a key complement to our action on greenhouse gases through ambitious national reductions," Kent added.
State Department officials say the project was spurred by the slow pace of international climate change talks.
Yet Canada's contribution is modest by any standards — it's kicking in just $3 million. The U.S. is contributing $12 million, while the amount being doled out by the other nations wasn't immediately known.
Nonetheless, Clinton said the news amounted to a watershed moment.
"Today's announcement, if we do everything we want to do and intend to do, will be looked back on in years to come as a real turning point in the fight against the effects of climate change," she said.
"We have every hope that we will see results soon."
The project, to be run by the United Nations Environment Program, is aimed at addressing short-lived pollutants like methane, hydrofluorocarbons and soot, also known as black carbon.
All have a significant impact on global warming, accounting for as much as 40 per cent of the problem. But unlike carbon dioxide, they have a short lifespan and don't linger in the environment for thousands of years.
If such measures were implemented worldwide, scientists say it could slow global warming by about half a degree Celsius by 2030.
Kent's visit to Washington came a day after he was on the hot seat in the House of Commons amid complaints from the world's biggest emerging economies. Brazil, South Africa, India and China say they're questioning Canada's sincerity on climate change given it recently walked away from the Kyoto Protocol.
Kyoto was the world's only legally binding global warming agreement.
"Most of the world recognized the Kyoto Protocol was not working, and a post-Kyoto climate-change agreement needs to be created," Kent had said Wednesday in the House.
On Thursday, Kent was asked why the government was announcing with great fanfare a $3 million contribution to a global initiative while it was closing down a network of monitoring stations in the Arctic that had tracked the same particle-forming pollutants.
"We are focusing on other scientific research and operations in the Arctic and the Far North that will figure directly in addressing things like black carbon," he said.