OTTAWA, MONTREAL — Environment Minister John Baird indicated yesterday he would like to ban, or at least strictly limit, the participation of Canadian companies in the emerging international carbon market.
That position would not only go against the advice of environmentalists but also many industry leaders, who say they want as many ways as possible to comply with the government-imposed rules that will soon be unveiled.
Mr. Baird told MPs on the House of Commons environment committee that he disagrees with the argument by oil executives.
The climate-change rules for Canadian industry are expected to be the centrepiece of the Conservative government’s climate-change plan, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised yesterday they will be released within “a couple of weeks.”
European Union countries have already set up a carbon market as a key method for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.
Under the system, each country sets maximum emission levels, then companies that reduce their emissions below the target can sell credits to companies on the global carbon market.
The aim is to provide a financial incentive to industry to reduce emissions, and also give companies the choice of meeting the government targets by reducing their own emissions or buying credits from other companies that have done so — whichever is cheaper.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion has said he wants Canadian companies to make “megatonnes of money” by selling credits to foreign companies.
But Mr. Baird said yesterday that he wants companies to trade only within Canada, or perhaps North America, so that the rules also help reduce smog levels in Canada.
“I have spoken with some people in other countries on this issue who say ‘With this market, [corporate money] will go to the cheapest available option to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, wherever that be in the world,’ ” Mr. Baird told MPs, describing the integrity of some carbon markets as “shaky.”
“Canada gets left behind in the green economy if all of our money goes offshore.”
Mr. Baird said he will soon be releasing the details of the government’s emission reduction targets. “I’m not aware of any country that’s going as far as we are,” he said.
Speaking at an environmental technology conference in Montreal yesterday, the Prime Minister said Canadians will not give up their job to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, but they can become world leaders in environmental technology.
“We will export this technology to the rest of the world and make a huge difference in the reduction of global greenhouse-gas emissions,” Mr. Harper said. “No population of any country will support an environmental plan that robs them of their jobs and destroys their living standards even in the short term.”
Mr. Harper’s speech yesterday came three days after his Conservative government released a budget that he said contained many important environmental initiatives. The Prime Minister urged opposition politicians to pass the fiscal plan into law — a request that will certainly be met given the promised support of the Bloc Québécois.
Mr. Harper also praised the government’s Clean Air Act, saying it has not been fully understood.
But a parliamentary committee meeting yesterday that was supposed to vote on amendments to that legislation quickly descended into procedural battles, and MPs adjourned without accomplishing anything.
“We have everything we need to get the job done in this bill and MPs are just scatting around in circles,” said Aaron Freeman of Environmental Defence. “I can’t figure out who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. This is a circus.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Dion was in Toronto yesterday to introduce former U.S. vice-president and climate change crusader Al Gore at a conference. Mr. Dion said he talked about climate change with Mr. Gore, but would not give details other than to say they discussed the need for countries to work together on climate change.
With a report from James Rusk