MONTREAL—Canada’s environment minister says it won’t take much work to boost the country’s credibility in the US when it comes to climate change.
Peter Kent made the remark a couple of days after the Obama administration challenged Canada to act more aggressively on climate change.
His comment came as Canada desperately seeks ways to get Alberta’s oilsands bitumen to markets, including the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project to pump oil though the US.
The pipeline debates appear to be catapulting climate change back up the political agenda, with the future success of Canada’s oil industry potentially hinging on the outcome.
“Certainly, I don’t think we have to go very far to build that credibility,” Kent said. “We’re doing a lot. Our American friends know that.”
Canada, he added, has worked closely with the US on many joint projects, including international initiatives.
“We work aggressively with the United States on climate change to encourage some of the foot-draggers, the major emitters in the developing world, to step up to their responsibilities,” Kent said.
Canada has also been regulating sector by sector, like in the US, he said.
“We’re deep into finalizing new regulations for the oil and gas industry, including the oilsands, which is an area of particular misrepresented and exaggerated impact in the United States,” Kent said.
While the Harper government has for years stated its plans to remain in lockstep with the Americans on climate change, Kent declined to discuss whether he was prepared to follow the US into a carbon tax.
“We have no plans for a carbon tax in Canada. We believe that the regulatory process is the way to get down (to reduce) climate-changing gases.”
When asked whether Canada would ever follow the U.S. into a cap-and-trade system, Kent called such talk hypothetical.
“There are no plans for cap and trade at the moment, there are no plans for carbon tax,” he said.
Kent made the remarks at a joint news conference with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, part of a government-wide push to emphasize Ottawa’s environmental credentials. The ministers announced 23 clean-technology projects, many of which focus on clean air and climate change.
The $61.8-million initiative will be paid for through Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s SD Tech Fund.
At the same time, the federal government tabled draft regulations to make good on a budget promise to increase penalties on unsafe operation of pipelines and nuclear facilities. The new rules would impose fines of up to $25,000 for individuals and $100,000 for corporations if they do not comply with federal safety rules.
Environment Canada also released an update on its pollution-fighting measures, stressing its record in controlling greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.
Earlier this month, Canada’s commissioner of the environment and sustainable development warned that the country’s eager pursuit of resource development was exposing it to greater environmental and financial risks.
Those risks, Scott Vaughan wrote in his final report to Parliament, were not being properly handled by government regulators.
Vaughan said the situation has put Canada’s reputation as an exporter at stake.
Canadian oil has recently been sold at lower rates than usual due a lack of pipeline capacity out of Western Canada and the US Midwest. As a result, Oliver estimated $50 million is lost each day because of the bottleneck.
©The Canadian Press