OTTAWA — A brazen protest, a sobering poll and a massive petition turned up the heat on the Harper government Monday over its climate-change position as a major United Nations conference began in Copenhagen.
Climate negotiators sounded each other out as the 12-day summit opened in the Danish capital, with hopes high and obstacles lingering for a new global-warming deal.
Delegates from 192 countries sought common ground on an international treaty to curb the planet’s pollution.
“The clock has ticked down to zero,” Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, said as he opened the conference. “After two years of negotiations, the time has come to deliver.”
But back in Ottawa, authorities investigated how protesters in blue jumpsuits could scale two Parliament Hill buildings in broad daylight and unfurl huge banners.
Police arrested 20 people after the morning protest in which activists rappelled from the roof of the West Block building and unrolled banners targeting both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for their climate-change policies.
Environment Minister Jim Prentice sought to play down the stunt.
“The issue at Copenhagen isn’t people climbing on the Parliament Building in Ottawa,” he said.
“The issue at Copenhagen is how we’re going to arrive at a binding international treaty that applies to all of the principal emitters of carbon so that we can reduce carbon emissions.
“And Canada is prepared to be a responsible party in all that.”
The protest came as a new poll suggested most Canadians want a deal done in Copenhagen.
The federal Tories say they won’t sign any agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol unless developing countries also adopt tough targets.
But 64 per cent of respondents to a Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey said rich nations have a responsibility to commit to higher and harder targets than developing countries.
Most also want to see a binding agreement come out of Copenhagen, and 81 per cent said Canada should act independently of the United States.
The Conservatives insist Canada must tie its policy to that of the U.S. because of the countries’ extensive economic relationship.