|Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is creating unnecessary fear by overestimating the economic cost of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, according to an Ottawa climate change expert.
Klein ambushed Prime Minister Jean Chretien in Russia last week with a letter from nine Canadian premiers stating their opposition to the Kyoto Protocol because of its negative economic impact.
Klein has long opposed the treaty, which would reduce carbon emissions below 1990 levels by 2012. At one point, he estimated that adhering to the guidelines would cost Alberta trillions of dollars.
But Matthew Bramley, a senior policy analyst with the Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development, says Kleins comments show he has no idea what the real costs of the treaty are.
"(Klein) did say trillions at one point, and that just illustrates the depth of his ignorance," Bramley says. "The overall impact on Canada is widely exaggerated."
Bramley is working with the federal organization examining the costs of implementing the Kyoto Protocol, and he says the latest worst-case estimates say it will cost Canada about half a percentage in gross domestic product over the next 10 years.
In other words, if the protocol is implemented as is, in 10 years Canadas gross domestic product will have risen 33.5 per cent, rather than 34 per cent.
Even a new report by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers into the economic costs of Kyoto fall far short of Kleins estimates they estimate a cost of between $1 billion and $4.5 billion a year.
"Thats the kind of very small economic impact thats being produced by credible modelling," Bramley says.
But those are national estimates, and what worries Albertans who work in the emission-heavy petroleum industry is that Alberta will bear the brunt of those costs.
Bramley agrees that is a concern, but says decisions have yet to be made about how that cost will be distributed across Canada. A ministers agreement on Kyoto includes a clause that says no province will be subjected to an unreasonable burden.
"Its entirely a political debate... and one that hasnt taken place yet," Bramley says. "Its very unlikely, from a political realist standpoint, that one region would be unfairly burdened.
"Without the (political decisions) it is fuelling a vacuum that is being filled with fear mongering."
Bramley also points out that economic models rarely take into account the environmental and human costs of not dealing with climate change. The economic devastation of the current drought in Alberta, for example, will become more common if climate change is left unchecked.
Despite Kleins objections, Federal Environment Minister David Anderson, Ottawas point-man on pushing forward with the Kyoto Protocol, reaffirmed his commitment to the deal recently, although he hedged on signing it before the end of the year.
Jo Dufay, a campaign director for Greenpeace, says Ottawa is not moving fast enough on the issue.
She also says opposition to the protocol is rooted in pressure from the American government, which opted out of Kyoto last year, and from the petroleum industry.
"George Bush, Ralph Klein and Esso dont set national environmental policy and its high time they were reminded of it," Dufay says. "National policy is decided by Canadians through their Parliament and those voices need to be heard."