Ottawa’s new carbon policy, written in Washington

Our colleagues at l’Actualité are chuffed about their new interview with Jim Prentice (conducted by Alec Castonguay, who is generally spotted in the pages of Le Devoir). In it, the environment minister says, in regard to the Americans, “We cannot have incompatible plans.” And he says he’s “not interested in getting lost in numbers:” if the Americans can come up with a carbon-reduction strategy, which he sounds like he very much doubts, he’s in the business of making sure Canada follows along.

I don’t want to be excessively apocalyptic with the headline I chose; as ace l’Actualité blogger Chantal Hébert points out, after the mixed (read: negligible) results achieved by the last half-dozen Liberal and Conservative environment ministers, a little outsourcing couldn’t hurt. My translation of highlights from the Prentice interview:

“We weren’t that close to the [Bush White House’s] American position. Our challenge was to define a Canadian policy for fighting against climate change with a neighbour who had no plan!… We would have rapidly lost jobs, because businesses would have moved their activity south of the border.

“[A new Copenhagen Accord] should include the major greenhouse-gas emitters, such as the United States, China, India and Brazil… A consensus is emerging that the next treaty shouldn’t resemble Kyoto, which didn’t work.

“Reducing our ecological footprint is the most important challenge of our age…

“We don’t yet know the official American position. We’ll see it in Copenhagen. Canada wants to reduce its emissions, by 2020, by 20% from their 2006 level, the year we were elected. Barack Obama wants to reduce them, by 2020, by about 14%, which is the amount they increased between 1990 and 2005. But I’m not interested in getting lost in numbers.

“…we need to harmonize our plans. We share the same continent, therefore the same economic market, the same air, the same water. Geography is forcing us to get along. It will be difficult to do so long as the United States doesn’t know precisely where they’re going. That does’t mean the policies must be identical, but they must be harmonized. They can’t be totally disconnected.

“If Washington shows up with a law that puts in place a system of ceilings for business emissions, with absolute targets for greenhouse-gas reductions, we’ll have to decide whether our intensity-reduction approach is compatible. The most important thing is not to have two different policies.”

The rest is here, in that Other Official Language.

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