June 26, 2006

Ontario urges U.S. co-operation on air pollution

By Wojtek Dabrowski

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadians and Americans are harming
each other with air pollution and must work closely to mitigate
climate change and reduce environmental damage, politicians
from both sides of the border said on Monday.

"We need to keep pushing each other, prodding each other,
(and) supporting one another in our efforts to protect our
shared air," Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty told a
government-sponsored conference on cross-border air pollution.

"Some of our activities as humans are seriously
compromising our health and the health of our planet," he said.
"Our generation bears a heavy responsibility to do something
about this."

His sentiments were echoed in even starker language by
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who said calamity looms if no
action on climate change is taken.

"Within the next 10 years, if we don't do something real
about global warming, we are looking at a global catastrophe,"
Kerry, a former Democratic presidential candidate, said in a
speech delivered live via video-conference. "Now, more than
ever, we need to work with neighboring states and provinces to
address this common threat."

Ontario says more than half of its air pollution comes from
U.S. sources. As well, air pollution from outside the province
is responsible for more than 2,700 premature deaths, almost
14,000 emergency room visits and more than C$5.2 billion ($4.6
billion) in health and environmental damage every year, Ontario

In 2005, the province had its worst year on record for smog
advisories, featuring 15 alerts that covered 53 days.

Ontario and its neighboring province of Quebec formally
signed on Monday a deal to work together on smog, air pollution
and climate change. And while Ontario is moving to renew
clean-air pacts with New York and Michigan to help relieve the
situation, more remains to be done, McGuinty said.

Kerry said that although there's plenty evidence of the
dangers of climate change, there has been a shortage of
political will in Washington to tackle the issue.

"The bad news is that Washington is full of flat-Earth
politicians," Kerry said. "No matter how the evidence mounts
for over two decades -- the melting of the Arctic ice cap,
rising sea levels, extreme weather that we've all witnessed and
hurricane seasons that grow more and more intense -- the
flat-Earth caucus isn't convinced."