TORONTO (Reuters) - Environment Minister Jim Prentice said on Monday Canada aspires to be part of a stringent North American standard on fuel efficiency for the continent's heavily integrated auto industry.
"At this point in the United States, it would appear as though they are headed toward a 35 mile a gallon standard by 2020 and that would start to come into effect in the 2011 model year," Prentice told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp in Washington.
"We've essentially been prepared to go in that same direction ... what we're striving for is a North American standard because we know there's only one North American automobile industry."
Prentice is in Washington for a series of meetings to talk about how to ensure both countries use cleaner energy.
Canada is the single largest supplier of energy to the United States but around half the oil it sends to its giant neighbor comes from oil sands. Processing the oil stripped out of the sands releases massive amounts of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
President Barack Obama wants to fight climate change by capping emissions of greenhouse gases from big industries and allowing them to trade rights to pollute. Such systems are commonly called "cap and trade".
Canada's Conservative government, which took power in early 2006, walked away from the Kyoto treaty on climate change and showed little enthusiasm for the idea of a cap and trade system, preferring to insist that industries cut the intensity of their emissions rather than agreeing to a strict limit.
Faced with a new U.S. administration that seems determined to act, Ottawa says it is prepared to look at the idea of a North American cap and trade agreement.
"The first thing that has to happen, however, is that the United States has to land with their own domestic policy. It's by no means clear how this will emerge from Congress over the course of the next year," Prentice said.
During his two-day trip, Prentice is due to meet Todd Stern, the chief U.SD. climate negotiator, Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu as well as Democratic Senator John Kerry.
Reporting by John McCrank and David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway