March 3, 2016 / 12:01 PM / 2 years ago

Pipeline strains set to cloud Canada climate change talks

VANCOUVER, March 3 (Reuters) - Strains over stalled Canadian oil pipeline projects look set to cloud tough talks on Thursday between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the country’s 10 provinces on how to tackle global warming.

Trudeau won an election last October on a pledge to do much more than the previous administration to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, which are climbing as firms exploit Canada’s vast crude-rich oil sands.

“Canada needs to step up in its fight against climate change,” he said on Tuesday at a press conference ahead of the negotiations in Vancouver. As it stands, Canada has no chance of meeting its international climate change targets.

Trudeau is under pressure both from environmentalists who want to curb oil sands production and western energy-producing provinces which say he needs to push through the construction of pipelines to take the crude to coastal ports.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is upset that the eastern province of Quebec has filed an injunction against TransCanada Corp’s proposed Energy East pipeline, designed to carry up to 1.1 million barrels of western oil per day to eastern ports.

“It does look like a political barrier put up against the project because there’s oil involved,” Wall told reporters on Wednesday, noting that Quebec has benefited in the past from transfer payments from energy-rich Western provinces.

Trudeau, pressed on the matter, said he did not feel “highlighting points of disagreement or differing views in this country is a threat to national unity”.

The 44-year-old prime minister is also trying to revamp a process to approve energy projects that has become so bogged down that some industry players wonder whether another pipeline will ever be built.

Even Trudeau allies such as Alberta Premier Rachel Notley are showing signs of impatience.

“We need the federal government sooner - not later - to play its role in building the national economy and to get our pipelines built,” she told reporters on Tuesday.

The Vancouver meeting was initially intended to create a firm plan for cutting emissions. Instead, in a sign of the challenges, that date has been pushed back by six months.

The provinces, which enjoy significant jurisdiction over the environment, have in many cases adopted different plans to deal with global warming and are wary of Ottawa’s intentions.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said on Wednesday the talks would not result in the federal government imposing a solution.

“I don’t know exactly what we’ll get all provinces to agree to,” she told reporters.

Wall opposes Trudeau’s plans for a national carbon price, saying he will not sign any declaration that commits the provinces to such a measure. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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