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Canada leads US on cutting dirty coal use

Foreign affairs ministers Baird says we can teach the US a few things about cutting greenhouse gas emissions.


OTTAWA—Canada can teach the US some lessons on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Sunday in a blunt rejoinder to recent chiding by the Obama administration on climate change.

Baird told The Canadian Press that the US should actually be following Canada’s lead on working to cut back on the use of coal-fired electricity generation.

Baird was responding to US Ambassador David Jacobson who told The Canadian Press separately last week that President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address calling for swift action on climate change should also be interpreted as a challenge to Ottawa.

“We adopted the same goals and objectives in terms of climate change and we worked with the Obama administration and harmonized vehicle emission standards, light truck standards,” Baird said in a telephone interview from Lima, Peru.

“We’re also taking concrete direct action with respect to dirty, coal fired electricity generation. Maybe the US could join Canada on that file.”

The Harper government has for years said it would remain in lockstep with the US on climate change, but Baird said Canada has gone even further on coal.

Baird’s defence of Canada’s environmental record appears to be part of a renewed initiative by the Harper government to burnish Canada’s climate credentials as Keystone’s future once again hangs in the balance.

“We’re the only country in the world that’s committed to getting out of the dirty coal electricity generation business,” Baird said. “These are real meaningful steps that will either meet or even exceed the work that’s been done thus far in the US.”

The coal lobby was one of the many interests to which Obama was beholden as he fought for re-election last year. Coal is a major industry in the key swing states in the US Midwest, which Obama counted on to win back the White House.

But the coal lobby now fears that Obama will take a harder line on their industry, now that he is secure in a second term. It points to the omission of coal in his State of the Union address as he touted the possibilities of wind and solar energy alternatives.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been a climate change crusader, was non-committal on the fate of the Keystone project during a joint news conference with Baird in Washington earlier this month.

All Kerry would say is that a decision is coming soon.

Baird reiterated Sunday that the pipeline is good for job creation in the both countries, as well as for weaning the US off of less secure sources of oil in the Arab world and Venezuela.

©The Canadian Press