Canada has slightly adjusted its mid-term climate mitigation targets to match US pledges. Canada’s Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, recently announced that Canada has changed its mitigation goals in an effort to harmonize with the Obama administration.

Canada’s new emissions reduction target for 2020 is a cut of 17% on 2005 levels. Heading into the Copenhagen meeting this past December Canada’s mid-term target was a 20% reduction on 2006 levels by 2020. This adjustment comes as countries report their national targets to the UNFCCC as outlined in the Copenhagen Accord. The new Canadian commitment has been labeled by environmental groups as being slightly less stringent than the previous target, and well outside the range of targets proposed by the European Union (20% cuts from 1990 levels by 2020, with the possibility of going up to 30%).

On the face of things, Canada’s adjusted target is just another step towards an apparent harmonization between the Canadian and US positions on climate change, something that Minister Prentice has been calling for since taking over the portfolio.

However, differences clearly remain on policy direction and actions for addressing climate change. While Canada will now follow US pledges for 2020, it is not clear if Canada will adjust its long term targets to match those included in legislation before the US Senate.  A climate bill passed by the House proposed a sharp cut of 80% on 2005 emissions levels by 2050, a target that the Canadian government does not seem to be considering.

Additionally, as previously reported on Climatico here, there is a big difference in stimulus spending on green initiatives on either side of the 49th parallel. Reports by the Pembina Institute have suggested that the U.S. is vastly outspending Canada on a per capita basis on renewable energy infrastructure.

In a recent speech in Calgary to oil executives, Minister Prentice indicated that any Canadian action on climate change was contingent on American actions. Critics have argued that this matching of American policy may result in indefinite delays as climate legislation faces an uphill battle in the US Congress.  This position has also resulted in furthering internal political divisions within Canada, as Quebec Premier Jean Charest came out strongly against the federal government policy.

If Canada is to wait for certainty in the American position it could be some time before Canada implements a comprehensive program to reduce emissions, either through a cap-and-trade scheme or through regulation.

While the Obama administration is making moves towards regulating carbon emissions through the Environmental Protection Agency it is unclear how far along Canada’s plans are to similarly regulate industry north of the border.  A plan to regulate emissions from heavy industry in Canada was due to be released last year (a deadline already shifted numerous times) but will now likely be stalled indefinitely.

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