Merkel Visits Climate Scientists in Halifax

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Some say it’s a political date that’s been a long time coming.

After months of trying to co-ordinate their schedules, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are finally getting together. Merkel arrives in Canada today for her first official visit to the country. She’ll hold private talks with Harper upon her arrival in Ottawa. The two are expected to discuss the EU crisis and trade options.

But tomorrow, Merkel’s agenda will be of an environmental sort. The Chancellor will make a special visit to Halifax, where she’ll highlight the work of climate scientists. Observers say the stopover highlights the difference between her priorities and those of own Prime Minister.

The 58-year-old has a well-known interest in climate change and the environment. Her visit to Halifax comes at a time when those same issues are dogging Harper’s image. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May hopes Merkel will convince Harper to change his approach on those issues. May has been quoted as saying, “This visit should send a signal to Stephen Harper that the rest of the world needs to see Canada stop playing the role of obstructive, unwilling partner in climate negotiations and start being helpful.”

The Chancellor will visit Dalhousie University on Thursday on her way home. She’ll attend the launch of a joint project between the school’s Halifax Marine Research Institute and German scientists from the Helmholtz Association. The project is called “Change, Risks and Resources in the Oceans: A Transatlantic and Arctic Approach”. The exhibits Merkel will tour will showcase how rising ocean temperatures are causing plankton levels to decline — ultimately hurting fish populations. The exhibits will also show the impact of extreme marine events such as hurricanes and oil spills. Reports say the joint project will explore opportunities for resource extraction as the Arctic melts, as well as the environmental consequences.

Some feel that Merkel’s stopover in Halifax will irk Harper. But German officials say that was never the intention. However, the move will force Canadians to ponder the leaders’ differences in priorities. The Tory government has been under fire for implementing spending cuts to the environment and for its push to begin construction on the Keystone Pipeline.

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