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Quebec launches cap-and-trade program
by Staff Writers
Quebec City, Quebec (UPI) Dec 16, 2011

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Quebec has adopted a cap-and-trade program aimed at cutting carbon emissions.

"We are participating in the emergence of an economic tool that will transform one of the most significant environmental challenges of the 21st century into a real trampoline toward a green, prosperous and sustainable economy," Quebec Environment Minister Pierre Arcand said Thursday in announcing the program.

Quebec aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

The move comes three days after Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent announced that Canada would formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, a decision Arcand called "utterly regrettable."

Kent had argued that remaining a part of the Kyoto accord, which calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels, would require Canada to spend $14 billion buying carbon credits from abroad.

Quebec's cap-and-trade law targets industrial establishments that emit 25,000 tons or more of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

It takes effect on Jan. 1, for a one-year transition period in which emitters can make necessary adjustments to meet their obligations under the system for capping and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, before the law comes in full force Jan. 1, 2013.

"With the adoption of this legislation, Quebec is positioning itself at the starting line, beside California," said Arcand. In October California became the first region in North America to adopt a cap-and-trade program.

Matt Horne of the Pembina Institute, a think tank on sustainable energy, said in a statement that Quebec's initiative sends a signal "that there will be a market for urgently needed clean energy solutions" and "will hopefully spur other North American jurisdictions to move forward."

But Horne said Quebec's minimum auction price for carbon credits at $10 per ton may be too low to generate an adequate incentive to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

"Quebec will need to strengthen their rules over time if the province is going to meet its climate change commitments," he said.

Yves-Thomas Dorval, chairman of the Quebec Employers Council, which represents business owners, said employers generally support the principal of a virtual carbon market as has been established in Europe.

"However, it seems rushed and risky for the government to impose a similar model on companies operating in Quebec when no other jurisdiction in North America, except California, has confirmed its intention to accede to such a system, especially at a time when the province needs to maintain a competitive business environment to attract more investment," said Dorval.

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