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G7 sends message to Russia at energy ministers meeting, says Canada's Rickford

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OTTAWA - A special meeting of G7 energy ministers has affirmed that energy should not be used to coerce countries politically or threaten their security — a statement Greg Rickford says is aimed squarely at Russia.

Canada's natural resources minister is in Rome for a special meeting looking at ways to wean Europe off Russian energy supplies. Rickford said his fellow ministers expressed "extreme"concern over Russia's continued incursion into Ukraine.

"Not just in terms of how we feel about Russia's violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, but clearly we believe energy should not be used as a means of political coercion," Rickford told a conference call Tuesday.

The G7 communique affirmed several principles that it said would lead to energy security, including the diversification of sources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy and promoting clean and sustainable energy.

"Energy security is a collective responsibility, a core component of our economic and national security that is inherently linked to the energy security of our allies, partners and neighbours," said the declaration.

Rickford said Canada will look at ways of sharing energy efficiency expertise with European countries in the short term.

Rickford said the short-term commitments by Canada are not about it being a source or supply of energy.

"They're focused on lending technical expertise, capacity, including leveraging the private sector" to assist Ukraine and other European countries, he said.

But he conceded that the statement was intended as a political message to Russia, and that there remains little the G7 could do that will affect "supply issues" in the next six months.

"We intend to address this matter," Rickford said. "We don't accept Russia's behaviour and their impact on energy security for supply for Ukraine, particularly vulnerable European countries and the instability they've created in global markets."

Rickford said he also made progress on persuading Europe to abandon its plans to label Alberta oil sands crude as dirty oil.

"I had a strong signal this was moving in the right direction for Canada," he said.

He said he had talks with EU representatives about their proposed fuel quality directive, or FDQ, which would calculate the greenhouse gas emissions of various sources of oil.

Rickford said Canada committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which he said have fallen by about five per cent in the last five years, and developing renewable energy sources.

"I feel better about it now then perhaps we have at any point in time."

He said he received "positive signals" from G7 ministers that he met with.

Rickford's predecessor, Finance Minister Joe Oliver, lobbied hard against the directive in European capitals in recent years.

Canada sells almost no crude to Europe but hopes to make inroads exporting liquefied natural gas.

Last week, a House of Commons committee heard testimony that Canada is the better part of a decade away from having the energy network it needs to be any kind of meaningful energy supplier to Europe.

Rickford said Canada is aiming to have the pipelines and other infrastructure it needs to start exports of oil and gas to Europe by 2020.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will attend a G7 leaders' summit next month in Brussels, where energy security will be a key issue.

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