Don’t tell Canada’s environment minister about “Hope” and “Change,” the rallying cries of Barack Obama’s election victory.

In the coming months, Jim Prentice must steer a complex proposal to essentially harmonize his government’s much-criticized climate change plan with the one proposed by the Obama administration. The result will be a North American market for trading greenhouse gas emissions credits, giving companies the incentive to cut their carbon footprint.

To do that, Prentice will have to change considerably the Tories’ environment blueprint and hope the hoopla over Washington’s re-engagement in the global warming fight will bring the Conservatives the breathing room they have been denied for the last three years.

“The election of Mr. Obama and the determination and the clarity with which he has spoken on climate change really is a fundamental change in terms of the situation,” Prentice said recently.

“I think it’s fair to say that we are now in a position where the policy framework we’re talking about as Canadians and the policy framework the new president has spoken about are very consistent.”

Prentice believes Obama’s America has come around to the Tory way of thinking on climate change.

But faced with a new U.S. administration that is stacked with climate change fundamentalists — people on a first-name basis with former vice-president Al Gore — it will be up to Ottawa to find religion.

The Obama team includes the likes of retired Marine Gen. James Jones, the proposed national security adviser, who touts the primacy of energy security and is well connected in Alberta’s oilsands. But it appears more weighted with appointees like climate czar Carol Browner, who dubbed U.S. President George W. Bush’s team “the worst environmental administration ever.”

Obama’s energy secretary nominee, Steven Chu, is a Nobel-prize winning physicist, a sign science will regain supremacy over politics when it comes to issues such as climate change.

Watch for the Harper government’s conversion to global warming orthodoxy that includes more stringent goals for cutting emissions, scrapping “intensity targets” — a measure that allows overall emissions to rise — long before the 2020 date it had planned, and signing on with some of the widely accepted standards that have left Canada isolated internationally.

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