February 29, 2016 / 8:40 PM / 4 years ago

Trudeau, Canadian provinces set for tough climate change talks

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a challenging day of climate change talks on Thursday with leaders of the country’s 10 provinces, one of whom opposes a key part of Ottawa’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Trudeau, whose Liberals won power last year on the back of a promise to do more to fight global warming, initially said the meeting, in Vancouver, would produce a firm schedule for meeting Canada’s international targets.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna reiterated on Monday that the deadline for coming up with a plan had been pushed back by six months, a move she said would allow for consultations with the provinces, which have significant responsibilities for the environment.

“While everyone knows we need to reduce emissions, having a plan to get there requires work ... it’s not about the federal government just telling everyone what to do,” she said.

The Liberals replaced the right-of-center Conservatives, who critics said favored the economy over the environment during their near decade in power.

The Conservatives pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, a target that official figures show is out of reach in the absence of radical measures.

Trudeau wants to impose a national price on carbon, which McKenna said on Monday was the most efficient way to cut emissions, as well as help the development of green technology.

But Brad Wall, the right-leaning premier of the western energy-producing province of Saskatchewan, opposes the idea.

“With the energy sector reeling in Canada, with the overall Canadian economy struggling, it’s my view ... that the very last thing we need right now is another new tax,” he told reporters on Monday.

Greg Selinger, premier of neighboring Manitoba, told the Globe and Mail in an interview published on Monday that he did not back a carbon levy that affected consumers.

Another issue for Trudeau is that most of the major provinces already have in place - or plan to introduce - programs that impose a price on carbon.

McKenna, speaking in an interview last Thursday, said it was not yet clear how the new proposed national price would fit in with the provinces’ efforts.

Asked about the likelihood of Canada missing its 2030 target for cutting emissions, she said meeting the goal would be “challenging” but added this was the direction the world is going.

Reporting by David Ljunggren

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