Canada seeks climate pact with United States

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November 11, 2008 @ 1:19 UTC

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Barack Obama

Obama’s election could cause problems for Ottawa, since he favours tougher emission cuts than Canada’s Conservatives and has expressed alarm over what he sees as excessive US reliance on “dirty oil” — much of which comes from Canada’s tar sands.

Concluding a pact could placate Washington by agreeing on tougher emissions standards while recognizing the importance of the tar sands, located in the western province of Alberta. Extracting oil from the sands produces huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

Canada is the largest single supplier of energy to the United States, accounting for around 9 percent of US oil consumption and 15 percent of US natural gas consumption.

The two nations have worked together before on green issues, most notably in 1991, when they signed a landmark agreement to cut acid rain.

“We do want to explore the possibility of a Canada/US agreement similar to what we did on acid rain in the early 1990s,” said a spokesman for Environment Minister Jim Prentice. He would not give further details.

Obama’s targets for emissions cuts are much tougher than those set by Canada’s Conservatives, who — like Bush — walked away from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The energy industry in Canada is immensely influential and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who comes from oil-rich Alberta, has long stressed that any measures designed to clean up the environment should not overly harm the oil patch.

He said on Thursday that he believed the incoming Obama administration would adopt tougher green policies “but will do so in a way that balances the environmental concerns with economic and energy concerns”.

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