From the Canadian Press. Maybe the new Conservative cabinet reads Maribo?
[Preface: It is rather fanciful to claim the Conservatives nascent cap-and-trade plan is similar to president-elect Obama's proposed cap-and-trade system that features auctioned carbon permits. The timing of these remarks from the Foreign Affairs Minister suggests the Conservatives hope to get credit for working with the universally-popular Obama to create a North American climate change initiative, even though in reality, they would simply be swept up by a plan put in motion by the US. Either way, it is a good start]
OTTAWA – Canada hopes to negotiate a North American climate-change deal with U.S. president-elect Barack Obama and will begin working on the file within weeks, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said today. Meantime, officials told The Canadian Press the Harper government has been waiting for the departure of President George W. Bush to work with his successor on an integrated carbon market.
While states and provinces have been cobbling together a patchwork of approaches to climate change, federal officials said they have been eyeing a continent-wide solution for some time.
Cannon confirmed the issue will be a priority. He said the Conservative government will make Canada's positions on the environment known to the incoming Obama administration.
"We will be able to tackle this file on the North American level – on a continental level," he said.
"Over the coming weeks I know my colleague Jim Prentice, minister of the Environment, will be active on that file. I see that in a positive light."
The climate file offers a glimpse of the political benefit the Harper government could draw from an Obama presidency.
Liberals have been expressing hope for months that Obama's election might herald a progressive tidal wave across North America that would propel them back to power.
But even at an Ottawa election party where Liberals celebrated Obama's victory, several predicted that the prime minister will align himself closely with the new occupant of the White House.
They cited the climate issue as an example where the Conservatives have taken flak for repudiating the Kyoto Protocol – but could actually win plaudits by twinning their approach with Obama's.
The Conservatives plan to lower greenhouse gases three per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 – or 20 per cent from 2006 levels over that same period.
Obama has set a similar objective of reducing greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020.
Both targets fall well short of Kyoto, an international agreement ratified by 180 countries, including Canada but not the U.S., that sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Obama and Harper plans would rely in part on a cap-and-trade system.
Cap-and-trade systems place a ceiling on greenhouse gases and allow participating countries, provinces and states, or companies to buy and sell emissions permits within that cap.
Participants who don't meet the emissions targets can buy credits from those with a surplus instead of reducing their emissions.
The idea is to gradually lower the ceiling to control emissions. The Conservatives pledged in their 2008 election platform to work with the U.S. and Mexico to develop and implement a continent-wide system between 2012 and 2015.
Cannon said the next White House and the Harper government could easily work together on environmental issues. "There are a lot of similarities between the positions put forward and our position. This augurs well for a North American approach on environmental issues – specifically on climate change."
An internal Environment Canada briefing prepared in April compares Canada's regulatory requirements with those in major U.S. global-warming legislation that could become law under Obama's administration. The briefing says a "rough comparison" of the bi-partisan U.S. Climate Security Act and the Conservatives' Turning the Corner plan ``suggests that the two pieces of legislation are comparable."
The Canadian Press obtained the briefing under the Access to Information Act. The document, dated April 14, says Canada will seek a shared carbon market with the U.S., once Washington sets out its own regulations.
"If a greenhouse-gas regulatory regime and offsets system is developed in the United States, cross-border trading in emissions credits and offsets will be pursued," it says.
Another federal official close to the issue said Ottawa has been in a holding pattern for some time, expecting that only in a post-Bush era would there be movement toward a continental system like the one in Europe. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has hinted at that himself. At a G8 summit in Germany last year, he said it's difficult for one country in a shared economic space to set steep targets while its neighbour doesn't.
"We didn't want to go too tough on targets with Bush in the White House," said the federal official. "Because then if they (Americans) didn't follow, it would place Canadian industry at a disadvantage."
In the absence of a continental or national carbon market, regional schemes have popped up. The Western Climate Initiative, a coalition of four Canadian provinces and seven U.S. states, plans a regional market to trade carbon emissions. And earlier this year, the Ontario and Quebec governments agreed to forge ahead with an interprovincial carbon trading system. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has said he would like the program in place by 2010.