OTTAWA (Reuters) - The White House proposal to cut greenhouse gases by 2020 is almost identical to Ottawa's plans and forms a start to a continental approach to the issue, Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reacting to President Barack Obama's plan to go to Copenhagen for next month's U.N. climate talks, said he was prepared to go to a summit there if all major leaders attended.
But Obama's planned visit, on his way to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, comes on December 9, near the start of the December 7-18 Copenhagen talks, and not at the time set aside for a leaders' meeting at the end.
"I have always been clear, if there is a meeting of all major leaders involving climate change, I will of course attend," Harper told Parliament.
"I would just note that President Obama has not confirmed his attendance at the leaders' meeting in Copenhagen (at the end of the talks). In fact, I have discussed the matter with him directly."
The Obama administration said on Wednesday it would pledge at Copenhagen to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Prentice said this was close to Canada's stated target of cutting emissions by 20 percent by 2020 from a 2006 base.
"They are essentially the same. They are very, very close to one another because of the difference in the base year. So this underscores the importance of continental harmonization which we have been speaking to," he told reporters outside the House of Commons.
Prentice also supported Obama's pressure for broader, global action on climate change.
"He highlighted the need for robust action from China and other emerging economies. He also was very clear that this would depend on legislative action on both energy and climate change in the United States."
Canada has held off introducing detailed plans to reach its emissions target in order to work in parallel with the United States, so as not to put Canadian industries at a competitive disadvantage with U.S. companies.
Opposition parties charge that this wait-and-see approach is irresponsible.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson