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In Depth

Policy
| 04/16/15

Interprovincial climate summit a damp squib

TCE

Ontario and Quebec’s high hopes for an ambitious interprovincial climate coordination plan at climate summit in Quebec City on Tuesday ran aground amid sharp disagreement between the premiers who attended, while four provincial leaders failed to show up. The day before, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne formally announced her province’s plan for a cap-and-trade system to cut carbon emissions by a tentative 80 percent, linking up with similar existing schemes in Quebec and California. The same day, British Columbian premier Christy Clark unveiled plans via telephone for a Climate Action Plan 2.0, building on the province’s carbon tax.

However, the summit exposed sharp differences between provinces, and the country’s patchwork of climate and energy policies, with Wynne and Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall locking horns in particular over emissions reduction targets. Despite being the province with the greatest per capita carbon dioxide emissions, Wall’s administration rejects both cap-and-trade and carbon taxes. Instead, it favours carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) technology—scrubbing its coal-fired plants of their emissions—at home and abroad, having built the world’s first commercial scale CCS project at its Boundary Dam generating station. United Nations climate chief Cristiana Figueres, who was in Quebec City for the summit, responded to Wall’s dismissal of hard reduction targets, telling reporters: “Although Canada is only 2 per cent of global emissions, it is the ninth-highest emitter in the world.” Meanwhile Newfoundland and Labrador leader Paul Davis, said his government is committed to hiking hydroelectric production up to 98 percent of the province’s electric generation, while New Brunswick’s Brian Gallant emphasized the need for energy conservation and the build-out of a smart-grid transmission system. Alberta meanwhile, is committed to expanding its emissions by 10 percent on 2005 levels by 2020—a policy that if followed through, would cancel out Ontario’s planned emissions cuts.

Collaborative progress at the summit was also stymied by the no-shows from the premiers of Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Novia Scotia due to domestic election issues, while BC’s new climate plan was criticised by the opposition New Democrat and Green parties as being short on substance. Ahead of the meeting, federal environment minister Leona Aglukkaq complained that the provinces had failed to deliver their climate plans so that Ottawa could submit its own climate strategy to the UN, the soft deadline for which was March 31. The summit ended with a vague statement agreeing to combat climate change, absent of specific measures to be undertaken. Wynne and Quebec premier Philippe Couillard, a fellow Liberal, aim to reach a deal to equitably share the burden of emissions reductions between the provinces by the summer, ahead of UN climate talks in Paris in December.

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