Canada's Commitment to Climate Change
On January 20, 2009 the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment for Canada, gave a speech in Toronto to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. The speech focussed on Canada's climate change objectives and policy in 2009 and beyond. The Minister confirmed what many climate change insiders already suspected - that Canada would be evolving from an intensity based performance standard to a cap and trade regulatory regime.
The speech was timely. As Minister Prentice stood before his audience, President Obama's inauguration was taking place in Washington. Cap and Trade, the favoured method for regulating emissions by the new American President, places hard caps on emitters to keep their emissions below specified levels. Minister Prentice clearly recognizes that under the Obama administration, the US is "re-engaging on multilateral climate change negotiations, creating the opportunity for…a North American regulatory regime and a level playing field that will alleviate past concerns about Canadian competiveness”.
How will the Canadian government proceed? Minister Prentice outlined 3 ideas which are at the forefront of the Government's strategy to deal with climate change: (1) endeavour to "do no harm” and avoid measures which would cause Canadian firms to be "not just down by also out”; (2) seek to ensure that federal policies are co-ordinated - climate change regulation would work in tandem with, for example tax policy, tariff policy and technology policy; (3) seek coordination and harmonization between federal and provincial governments and policies.
Minister Prentice also stressed that it is developed nations, like Canada and the United States working together with other developed nations, who will lead the world to cut emissions, with developing nations following suit. Without securing meaningful participation from the Big Five of China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, efforts of the developed world will be "well-intentioned folly” in the realm of climate change.
To achieve leadership in this area and central to Minister Prentice's speech was his desire to see one shared target between Canada and the United States akin to the collective commitment of the European Union. When President Obama makes his first official state visit to Canada in the upcoming weeks, Minister Prentice hopes that "one of the many points of agreement for action will be commencing a co-operative, bilateral approach to the environment and to energy in ways that spur economic recovery and renewal”.
All roads will lead to the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December, 2009. It's an exciting time. With its natural resources and new technology initiatives in the realm of carbon capture and storage, energy conservation and efficiency and greening energy production, and with Minister Prentice's bright and forward thinking leadership, Canada is poised to be a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
The full text of the speech is available here: Environment Canada - Media Roo