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Ontario to Join in Carbon Trading Pact

Posted by mhudema on July 18, 2008

Ontario to sign cap-and-trade climate plan

McGuinty pans Alberta plan to invest in carbon capture, storage

Lee Greenberg, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Friday, July 18, 2008

QUEBEC CITY – Ontario will join a transcontinental environmental network devoted to fighting climate change as early as today, increasing pressure on Alberta and Saskatchewan to ramp up their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In a move praised by environmentalists, Ontario will sign on to the Western Climate Initiative, joining seven U.S. states, British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec. The WCI includes plans to establish North America’s first transcontinental cap-and-trade system in 2012.

One climate-change expert described the news as “an important development” in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions.

“It would mean that four provinces representing 75 per cent of Canadians are all part of the same system that sets hard caps for industry,” said Dale Marshall, a spokesman for the David Suzuki Foundation. “It would be another nail in the coffin of the weak, intensity-based federal proposal.”

Cap-and-trade, a market that establishes emissions targets and lets higher polluting companies buy credits from greener ones, is a contentious plan that has exposed a rift between Canada’s premiers, who are in the midst of three days of meetings in Quebec City.

Alberta and Saskatchewan closed the door on cap-and-trade earlier this week, calling it a cash grab by some of Canada’s resource-poor provinces.

Mr. McGuinty and others believe the system will eventually become the norm. He cast aspersions on Alberta’s plan to invest $2 billion in carbon capture and storage (CCS), a process that stores carbon emissions by injecting them into deep geological formations.

Environmentalists yesterday reiterated their call for Alberta to step up its action on greenhouse gas emissions. The province is Canada’s largest emitter of those pollutants and, according to the Pembina Institute, will allow its emissions to increase by a further 20 per cent by 2020.

“What Canadians want is for Alberta to take responsibility for its actions,” said Graham Saul, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada. “This is not a money grab, it’s asking Alberta to put the interests of the planet and future generations ahead of short-term (gains).”

However, Mr. Stelmach and his ally in the climate-change debate, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, yesterday echoed their doubts about cap and trade.

They suggested both presumptive U.S. presidential candidates would have trouble following through with calls for a national cap and trade system.

“To say that a presidential candidate has said, ‘Well I will implement it,’ without the support of both houses (of the U.S. Congress) is virtually impossible,” Mr. Stelmach said. “If somebody is telling you that there is agreement on policies on climate change, they weren’t at the same (recent western governors) meeting I was at. There is huge disagreement among the American States.”

Mr. Wall pointed to the autonomy of U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

“You know there’s this notion going on that the cap and trade in North America is unavoidable,” he said. “And, with respect, I don’t agree.”

Mr. McGuinty says he and his fellow premiers are not ignoring crucial issues such as the economy at their annual get-together, despite their decision yesterday to focus on a largely pre-ordained agreement on labour mobility.

Ontario’s economy, which has shed tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent years, contracted in the first quarter and could be in the midst of a recession.

One observer called for a more serious discussion of important issues at the annual Council of the Federation meetings.

My main frustration is that it appears to be more about photo ops, good meals and rides on boats than it does about people worried who are about paying their rent next month or about the kind of jobs their kids will have in six months or one year,” Ontario Federation of Labour president Wayne Samuelson said.

Mr. McGuinty said he would raise the economy at a breakfast meeting this morning with Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney.

The Ontario premier has been pushing for lower interest rates, in a bid to lower the Canadian dollar and make Canadian exports more appealing to foreign buyers.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet with him,” Mr. McGuinty said yesterday. “So I’m looking forward to doing that and to listening to him, getting his perspective on the economy as it stands and where he thinks it’s going to go. Obviously I’m going to impress on him the specific challenges and opportunities associated with the Ontario economy.”

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

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