The Harper government says special breaks may be in store for Alberta’s oilsands.
Oilsands emissions may not drop as much as other industries as Canada moves to synchronize its environmental policies with its largest trading partner, the United States.
Environment Minister Jim Prentice said legislation moving through the U.S. Congress would grant special breaks to certain “trade-exposed” industries.
The bill — dubbed the Waxman-Markey bill after its authors, Democrats Henry Waxman and Edward Markey — is a major piece of climate-change legislation before Congress.
It would, among other things, set a national cap on greenhouse gases and allow polluters to buy and sell allowances. This is known as a cap-and-trade system.
The bill would help some energy-intensive, trade-vulnerable industries adapt to new clean-energy rules and technologies by giving them special allowances to cover their higher costs.
Prentice told reporters in Copenhagen that it’s important that whatever industries fall into that “trade-sensitive” category in the States also do so in Canada.
Asked if that included the oilsands, Prentice replied: “I think any industry that is a trade-exposed industry in the same sense would be an industry that has to be considered in terms of its comparability to the U.S. framework.”
The government has been studying which sectors might get breaks, he added, but no decision has been made.
Prentice was responding to documents obtained by the CBC that apparently suggest Canada’s oil-and-gas industries wouldn’t need to cut their carbon emissions as deeply as first thought.
CBC is reporting that the draft documents were prepared for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet ahead of the Copenhagen climate talks. The public broadcaster says the documents outline a “working draft position” of Canada’s stance on emissions targets.
CBC says the documents suggest the oil-and-gas industry would only have to reduce emissions by 15 megatonnes rather than the 48 megatonnes set out in its Turning the Corner climate-change plan.
Prentice said he isn’t familiar with the draft documents, but he added they are not official policy.
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