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Canada up to U.S. climate-change challenge

Environment minister says 'we're doing a lot'

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MONTREAL -- Canada's environment minister says it won't take much work to boost the country's credibility in the United States when it comes to climate change.

Peter Kent made the remark in Montreal on Friday, a couple of days after the Obama administration challenged Canada to act more aggressively on climate change.

His comment came as Canada desperately seeks ways to get Alberta's oilsands bitumen to markets, including the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project to pump oil though the U.S.

The pipeline debates appear to be catapulting climate change back up the political agenda, with the future success of Canada's oil industry potentially hinging on the outcome.

"Certainly, I don't think we have to go very far to build that credibility," Kent said in response to a reporter's question.

"We're doing a lot. Our American friends know that."

Canada, he added, has worked closely with the U.S. on many joint projects, including international initiatives.

"We work aggressively with the United States on climate change to encourage some of the foot-draggers, the major emitters in the developing world, to step up to their responsibilities," Kent said.

Canada has also been regulating sector by sector, like in the U.S., he said.

"We're deep into finalizing new regulations for the oil and gas industry, including the oilsands, which is an area of particular misrepresented and exaggerated impact in the United States," Kent said.

U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson indicated earlier this week President Barack Obama's state-of-the-union call for swift action on climate change should also be interpreted as a challenge to Ottawa.

While the Harper government has for years stated its plans to remain in lockstep with the Americans on climate change, Kent declined to discuss whether he was prepared to follow the U.S. into a carbon tax.

"We congratulate President Obama on his state-of-the-union address, his commitment to the environment, but I think it's premature to read between lines," he said.

"We have no plans for a carbon tax in Canada. We believe that the regulatory process is the way to get down (to reduce) climate-changing gases."

When asked whether Canada would ever follow the U.S. into a cap-and-trade system, Kent called such talk hypothetical.

Kent made the remarks at a joint news conference with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver as part of a government-wide push to emphasize Ottawa's environmental credentials. The ministers announced 23 clean-technology projects, many of which focus on clean air and climate change.

The $61.8-million initiative will be paid for through Sustainable Development Technology Canada's SD Tech Fund.

At the same time Friday, the federal government tabled draft regulations to make good on a budget promise to increase penalties on unsafe operation of pipelines and nuclear facilities. The new rules would impose fines of up to $25,000 for individuals and $100,000 for corporations if they do not comply with federal safety rules.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 16, 2013 A13

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