Feds unveil plans for carbon market

The Harper government took the long-awaited step Wednesday of detailing its plan to trade pollution permits on the open market.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice speaks with the media after giving a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa Wednesday.

OTTAWA — The Harper government took the long-awaited step Wednesday of detailing its plan to trade pollution permits on the open market.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice released two draft documents laying the ground rules for a federal carbon-offset scheme.

The guidelines set out which offset projects qualify for the federal system, how others can apply for inclusion, the value of each offset credit, how emissions cuts are tracked and verified, and other nitty-gritty details of the plan.

“The offset system, like all elements of our climate-change plan, is aimed first and foremost at reducing emissions in Canada,” Prentice said.

“And we will be rigorous in ensuring that credits will only be issued for projects that actually reduce the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions in this country.”

The government will place a cap on greenhouse gases and allow firms to buy and sell emissions permits within that cap. Participants who don’t meet the emissions targets can buy credits from those with a surplus instead of reducing their emissions.

The idea is to gradually lower the ceiling to control emissions. The Conservatives pledged to lower greenhouse gases 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020.

The federal offset system will “complement” a patchwork of regional carbon markets, Prentice said, and “not supplant or duplicate them.”

The public will have 60 days to comment on the draft offset regulations before the Tories publish final regulations this fall.

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