UPDATED: PrenticeWatch: Ten feet from the podium? Canada’s back again!

The Toronto Star’s Mitch Potter managed to catch up with Canada’s curiously elusive environment minister as he went about his full-message-heft-absorbing duties:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in New York today but did not attend the morning sessions. Harper was scheduled to lunch with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and will join up with 25 world leaders tonight for a private dinner at the UN at the behest of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Instead, Environment Minister Jim Prentice took Canada’s seat, where he absorbed the full heft of the messages of Obama, Hu, Sarkozy and the other keynote speakers.

“Canada was seated about 10 feet from the speaker’s podium so it came through very clearly,” Prentice told the Star. “I thought the President of the Maldives made a very compelling speech, with a crisp analysis of the challenge we all face.”

Prentice assessed the UN gathering as a “day where the United States and China are under the microscope,” with smaller nations looking for leadership from the two flagship economies.

On the momentum for a meaningful agreement at Copenhagen, Prentice said: “It’s too early to make categorical predctions. We do have 80 days left … we’re in the thick of this and I remain hopeful.”

Behind closed doors, Prentice said Canada is expressing a willingness to take on “economy-wide reduction targets.” But he said that any major deal at Copenhagen will depend on the willingness of the major emerging economies to assume “binding” targets.

“The lion’s share of future emissions will come from China, India and Brazil. We do need to see binding targets” from those countries if a breakthrough is to be achieved, he said.

ITQ wasn’t aware that the impact of a given speaker was so dependent on the proximity of one’s chair to the podium, but on the plus side, at least now we know that Prentice is present and accounted for at today’s session. Who knows — maybe later today, he’ll have some crisp analysis of his own to share with Canadians.


You know, if my prime minister didn’t even bother showing up for the meeting, I’ve got to think that I’d try to sound a little less dismissive of what other world leaders had to say, but according to this Globe and Mail report, Jim Prentice suffers from no such reticence:

“Today, to be fair, was a pivotal day because for the first time, in this forum, we’ve heard from the new President of the United States and the President of China,” Mr. Prentice said. “Those two countries are 50 per cent of the world’s emissions. They are the two countries that are going to have to bridge this difference.”

[…] The Environment Minister made Tuesday today that China’s position still isn’t good enough.

“The Chinese President made a historic speech … but did not offer binding targets in terms of reductions, but rather targets that are related to specific things that would be done in China relative to energy efficiency, renewable energies and so on,” Mr. Prentice said.

Hey, here’s a thought, minister: Why doesn’t Canada show China how it’s done, and tell the world about our “binding targets” and how we plan to achieve them?