Minister Prentice Concludes International Climate Change Trip

Climate Change Law Practice Group Blog

May 28, 2009

Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, concluded a series of important international climate change discussions today in London. The Minister participated in the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, the Major Economies Forum in Paris, and a carbon capture and storage conference in Bergen. The Minister ended his trip in London, where he had extensive discussions his UK counterpart, the Rt Hon David Miliband.

All roads continue to lead to Copenhagen, as we've been saying for a number of months (see here, here and in particular here. In a May 24 speech at the World Business Summit, to which he was invited by the Danish Minister, Minister Prentice remarked:

"I think the fundamental question for business leaders here today is how do we build confidence and momentum towards Copenhagen, and in particular for the business leaders and the companies [those business leaders] represent, what responsibility do you have and what role do you play in that process".

The Minister also indicated to that he is optimistic about the prospect of achieving international agreement on climate change strategy in Copenhagen and cautioned leaders about "green protectionism".

The Minister confirmed to media this morning that Canada's climate change policy would be unveiled in advance of Copenhagen and reiterated Canada's commitment to 20% by 2020 relative to 2006 levels. He advised that the specific domestic approach would be tabled first in Canada and then at the international level.

One of the most important points to come out of the discussion this morning, is the continental approach to climate change, which Minister Prentice has previously indicated is so vital.

Canada's trading relationship with the United States is the biggest trading relationship in the world. Clearly any federal climate change strategy must work in concert with the U.S. approach to climate change. Any policies which Canada develops to address climate change must also reflect Canada's national interest. We have blogged many times about meaningfulness of co-operation on both a North American and global basis. In his remarks to the media today, Minister Prentice further reiterated these important points.

However, the Minister also stressed that while Canada's climate policy must be concordant with that of its neighbour to the south, it does not mean that the policies will be exactly the same all the time. Minister Prentice gave fuel economy standards as an example of where it is in Canada's best interest to mirror that of the United States – the auto industry is truly cross border and having identical fuel standards makes sense. But there are other areas, electricity generation, for example he said, where they are not the same. The Minister asserted that while Canada's policies would work on an equivalent basis with those of the U.S., they need not be identical. For the time being, the United States has not yet arrived at a domestic policy or target. As a result, it is difficult for "Canada to define continental solutions".

What Canada's policy will ultimately be is important. But what is truly and fundamentally important is making progress – how will we find real solutions for climate change? The answer: Technology. Transformative change will only be able to occur through investments in technology. In his Copenhagen speech, Minister Prentice emphasized this point:

"[T]he challenge before us is all about technology. That just cannot be overemphasized, because we're talking fundamentally about a transformation of the capital stock, the technological investments in our society. This will take time. It will take massive investments…".

"Massive" investments in technology and transformative change have already started. Canada, and Alberta in particular, has already demonstrated it is serious. The Canadian government has pledged $1 billion to carbon capture and storage technologies. The Alberta government another $2 billion.

Perhaps the most unique sources of funding is the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund.. The $122.4 million from 2007 and 2008 compliance years will be specifically allocated for purposes related to the reduction of emissions or improving the ability to adapt to climate change. With all these investments in transformative technology, we are leading the way.