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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (Reuters) - Canada's environment minister said on Friday the federal government would give the country's provinces a consultative role in any negotiations with the United States on a North American pact to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
The minister, Jim Prentice, said Canada intended to pursue such talks with the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama on a national level.
Even so, he said, "There will be extensive consultation (with the provinces) before we ever sit down with the U.S. administration."
Prentice made his remarks to reporters after a climate-change conference at Lake Louise, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies.
The province of Alberta, which is looking to safeguard the interests of the carbon-intensive oil sands industry and other big emitters, has asked to play a direct role in any negotiation on North American climate change.
Emissions of carbon-based greenhouse gases are widely viewed as a main cause of global warming.
Prentice, one of the most influential figures in a minority Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, declined to commit to offering any province a direct role.
The minister said he has not yet broached the possibility of talks on a continental accord with anyone in the new U.S. administration, which takes power in January.
"These are early days. We have to wait and see who (Obama) appoints to key positions. Who will be head of the EPA? Who will be the secretary of energy?"
Prentice said Canada is also waiting for specifics on a cap-and-trade system proposed by the Obama administration before determining if it would work with planned Canadian regulation.
The Conservative government recently said it also wanted to introduce such a system. It proposing cutting Canadian greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and further cuts in following years.
Cap-and-trade systems allow emission credits to be traded on the free market by utilities, manufacturers and other industries that produce greenhouse gases.
While the federal proposal has been criticized as too lenient by many environmentalists, Prentice said it is more stringent than the cuts proposed by Obama during the U.S. election campaign.
Editing by Peter Galloway