Canada’s new climate advisers want to see if your province can do it better

WASHINGTON — The new ministers for Canada’s environment and natural resources have the oil and gas sector in their sights. “We recognize the problem, we recognize the effect of climate change, we accept this…

Canada’s new climate advisers want to see if your province can do it better

WASHINGTON — The new ministers for Canada’s environment and natural resources have the oil and gas sector in their sights.

“We recognize the problem, we recognize the effect of climate change, we accept this responsibility,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said when asked about whether she would support a carbon tax at the end of a climate and energy policy briefing Wednesday.

If the Progressive Conservative Party government was out to bring down Alberta’s carbon tax before it formed a coalition with the centrist New Democratic Party, McKenna dismissed any notion that the provinces that the Trudeau government promised would have a level playing field had it been a different government.

“The Liberals have made it absolutely clear to all provinces and territories that we want to see carbon pricing in place,” she said. “We’ve had a very consistent message that we support the principle of real global action on climate change and that provinces and territories should take decisions about taxing carbon that they think make sense for their citizens.”

How Canada will proceed after this week’s shock, interim federal and provincial budget announcements remains to be seen. Finance Minister Bill Morneau hinted Wednesday that some debt-neutral carbon pricing might be planned, though it’s a more direct way to fight climate change in itself.

Canada pledged $2.7 billion to climate action at the United Nations summit in 2015, yet acknowledged in its emissions reduction plan that it needed an additional $2.8 billion in resources to work towards its 2030 target.

Environment Minister McKenna made it clear that she expected to hear from industry leaders when she held a week-long engagement tour of the oil and gas sector beginning last week in Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa. It was the first time in 12 years that Canada’s natural resources minister and environment minister had sat down with oil and gas executives in the same city.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to “great success” from the discussions, although he did not mention industry specifically.

“We’ve talked about the value of the energy sector,” he said. “We’ve talked about what is the best path forward, and I think our conversations have been very constructive.”

The Canadian Press reported that an informal note from McKenna relayed that oil sands producers should look for other markets instead of exporting their oil to the United States, though it was not clear what direction Trudeau might take on how to handle exports.

The note said the oil sands producers should instead pursue new markets, according to the Canadian Press. Trudeau didn’t say whether the finance minister was directing the government’s new carbon tax toward energy exports.

McKenna downplayed uncertainty over oil and gas prices and production as a concern.

“All of us are disappointed with the price of oil,” she said. “That is a big business driver for our provincial governments, and it’s difficult to be concerned about the price of oil and the fact that what we need is a stable price.”

Trudeau did not address the industry again during his remarks Wednesday.

The government Tuesday unveiled a federal budget that would hit the provinces hardest for their emission reductions targets, particularly Ontario and Alberta.

Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government have laid out the framework for more resources to fight climate change, and Wednesday brought us more uncertainty about how and where they might be allocated.

David McLaughlin, the former executive director of the Canada 2020 think tank, described the uncertainty as “apocalyptic,” and cited the inability of incoming Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and McKenna to reach a climate accord last month, the last day of former premier Brad Wall’s term.

McMahon again refused to directly address the lack of a climate accord.

“Our province was working with this new government to try to see what the best path forward would be. It was the right time for that work to be done,” she said. “We will see how this plays out.”

McKenna made a point of saying the government was not interested in revisiting climate action.

“We are absolutely committed to delivering our plan and not re-visiting it,” she said. “We have the power to move with global leadership here. The incoming government should be calling that out in the strongest possible terms.”

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