Davos Switzerland -
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is calling on world leaders to em-brace an "enlightened sovereignty" that puts the global good ahead of each country's immediate self-interest.
But within minutes of introducing the idea Thursday in a major foreign policy speech at the Davos World Economic Forum, Harper had to fend off suggestions that he's being short-sighted on climate change.
Countries don't commit to hard targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions for a very good reason, he told a round-table discussion with other leaders - because such action has "very significant impacts on the economy" of each country.
"There are real serious tradeoffs to be made with economic imperatives in the short term.
"We all blame each other for not dealing adequately on climate change, when all every country is trying to do is simply deal with the very real impacts these measures could have on jobs and economic growth. The legitimacy of that concern has to be acknowledged."
Other leaders quickly responded that adapting to climate change can actually make a country's economy grow, if handled correctly. And even if there is a cost to some parts of the economy, it's a price worth paying, they argued.
"There's nothing that leads us to believe it would cause lower economic growth," said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero, seated near Harper before an audience of business executives, other politicians and renowned thinkers.
Without a concerted effort to find ways to cut emissions "our future is very dark," Zapatero said.
The leaders on stage with Harper suggested putting the economy before environment is too short-sighted - exactly the kind of approach he criticized in his keynote speech.
In that speech, Harper said countries belonging to the G20, he said, need to make sure their discussions are "less about narrow self-interest in sovereignty's name."
Instead, he called for "an expanded view of mutual interest, in which there is room for all to grow and prosper. Enlightened sovereignty, then - the natural extension of enlightened self-interest."
Harper warned G20 leaders that the very body that eased the world out of recession could fail unless countries put their differences aside.