Canada to tout oil sands in emission cut plans

Mon Feb 1, 2010 5:52pm EST
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The Canadian government will keep supporting development of Alberta's oil sands while it follows the U.S. lead on setting targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the country's environment minister said on Monday.

The oil sands, a frequent target of criticism among environmental groups, must be developed responsibly, but at the same time governments need to boost efforts to trumpet work being done to clean up operations, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said.

"What is at issue on the international stage is our reputation as a country," Prentice told a University of Calgary School of Public Policy audience. "Accordingly, we need to up our game, in terms of both environmental vigilance and in terms of our communication efforts."

Prentice made the comments after trimming emission targets and pledging to harmonize with the United States, fueling new scorn from green groups already critical of Canada's role in international climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.

In a letter sent to the United Nations on Saturday, Canada committed to a 17 percent cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2020. This is identical to the U.S. target but less than the 20 percent cut from 2006 levels that Ottawa previously promised.

Environmental groups say Canada -- one of the largest per capita emitters of greenhouses gases among developed nations -- has a lamentable record and needs to do much more.

But Prentice said there is no point adopting tougher goals than the United States, Canada's largest trading partner.

Alberta's oil sands are the largest source of oil outside the Middle East, and most of the 1.2 million barrels a day of oil sands-derived crude gets shipped to the United States.   Continued...