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Canadian panel touts carbon pricing

by Staff Writers
Ottawa (AFP) April 16, 2009
An environmental panel urged the Canadian government on Thursday to quickly implement a national carbon pricing policy if it is to meet its targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

In a report, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy said the cost of carbon would have to top 100 Canadian dollars (83 US) per ton by 2020, and rise to a maximum of 200 dollars.

Eventually, the government must tie in its trading system with other nations' cap and trade markets to keep CO2 prices from skyrocketing, it said.

"Pricing carbon is an idea whose time has come," panel chair Bob Page told a press conference.

"By putting a price on carbon emissions, we can and we will change industrial and consumer behavior on how we produce and consume energy."

The panel warned its cap and trade plan would curb economic growth by one to six percent in the coming decades, but insisted this was the least costly option available to the government.

To date, various provincial jurisdictions have laid out a patchwork of climate initiatives, while Ottawa balked at environmentalists' calls for severe measures to cut CO2 emissions.

Canada agreed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon emissions to 6.0 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, but in 2007 outlined a new plan to cut emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 65 percent by 2050, based on 2006 levels, saying the targets agreed to by the previous administration were unattainable.

Its reluctance to implement tougher measures stemmed in part from Washington's refusal to ratify Kyoto.

There was a fear in Canada that Canadian companies would be at a trade disadvantage since US companies are not bound by the Kyoto Protocol, after it was rejected by the previous US administration. The two nations are the world's largest trading partners.

But US President Barack Obama has pledged tougher measures to stem global warming, and his administration is said to want a plan ready for the next meeting of world leaders on climate change in December in Copenhagen.

In February, Canada's environment minister heralded the idea of a continental plan to tackle climate change and a common North American cap and trade system.

But the panel dismissed this, saying US lawmakers are not looking to partner with Canada on this issue.

Instead, Ottawa should roll out a cap and trade system that is compatible with the US system described in legislation introduced in March, and hope for an eventual tie-up, he said.

Page also warned that carbon management could soon become a "precondition for entry into the US market."

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