Canada’s provincial leaders agreed to accelerate efforts to cut greenhouse gas, while stopping short of specific targets, as the country rushes to change its reputation as a climate laggard.
At a summit held Tuesday in Quebec City, provinces released a joint statement committing to reduce emissions, develop technology and “make a transition to a lower-carbon economy,” with 12 pledges in total.
Canadian lawmakers have been grappling to overhaul environmental policies for more than a decade as the nation struggles to win backing for energy projects such as TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. The Quebec summit ended with calls for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to do more to reduce emissions at the federal level.
“There’s no leader in this country, at the provincial or territorial level, who is saying this is not something we have to pay attention to,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It’s going to be clearer and clearer to the people of this country that there’s a real disconnect between what provincial and territorial leaders are saying, and what the federal government is saying.”
While premiers took aim at Harper, whose government was not represented, the Quebec summit also revealed disagreement between the 13 provinces and territories. The statement wasn’t signed by Alberta and Prince Edward Island, both in an election campaign, and stopped short of committing to specific emissions targets or calling for a carbon price.
Quebec and Ontario signed an agreement Monday to form a linked cap-and-trade system, while premiers across Canada’s North said before the summit they opposed carbon prices that would add to already-high energy costs.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall told his counterparts at the summit they were only “playing on the margins” unless Canada, with its small population, worked to reduce emissions outside its own borders.
Harper was also criticized at the meeting by Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Canada is one of few industrialized nations that has yet to publish emissions pledges ahead of a UN climate summit in Paris in December, she said. Harper has said he will submit the nation’s targets by June.
“A national policy that would bring all these different strategies together would help Canada be more efficient about its carbon management,” Figueres said.