QUEBEC — Canada must create a cap-and-trade system that’s compatible with the U.S. plan to reduce greenhouse gases — even if no U.S. system actually exists.
That was the position laid out Thursday by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
But even as the Liberal leader was outlining a variety of green policies in a wide-ranging speech, his chief rival swooped in to steal his thunder.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper let it be known — right in the middle of Ignatieff’s speech — that he would attend the global conference at Copenhagen alongside U.S. President Barack Obama.
Ignatieff was in the middle of telling a Quebec audience that he favoured a cap-and-trade system in which companies would make money by going green, and polluters would need to pay.
Ignatieff said he hoped such a plan would fit into a global system, and work in conjunction with any plan set up in the U.S.
But he said Canada should go ahead and create the system even before the Americans have established theirs.
Ignatieff also said he favoured using the stricter baseline year of 1990, favoured by most developed countries and the backbone of the international Kyoto accord, to calculate emissions cuts — while the Harper government prefers using 2006.
Ignatieff said his plan would benefit provinces, like Quebec and Manitoba, that have already been working over the last decade and a half to reduce their emissions.
He joked that even the oil industry is ahead of the Harper government on the need for a green economy.
Ignatieff said the centrepiece of his environmental plan would be a cap-and-trade system — where companies must buy credits if they pass a certain emissions level while greener companies collect credits for under-polluting.
“The Canadian system must be equitable across all regions of the country,” said the prepared text of Ignatieff’s speech.
“It must not penalize those who have already taken the lead. It must cover all of Canada’s industries, with no exceptions.
“It must also be compatible with an eventual cap-and-trade system in the United States. But that does not mean — and this is key — that we have to wait for Washington before we move forward.”
Ignatieff also laid down a number of other markers in his wide-ranging speech on the environment.
He said he wanted to quadruple the amount of renewable energy used in Canada by 2017 — Canada’s 150th birthday. He said Ottawa should invest more heavily in solar, wind and geothermal energy.
He also said Canada should adopt the toughest vehicle-emissions standards on the continent.
He also wants Canada to be a better steward of the Arctic, and to lay down rules about what other countries can do there.
“We will defend Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage in all the councils of the world, especially as it becomes a more viable shortcut between Europe and Asia,” Ignatieff said.
“We need to set the rules for using the Northwest Passage, in agreements that account not only for its fragile environment, but also for the many dangers faced by those who navigate it.
“Finally — because the Arctic, one of the planet’s most fragile ecosystems, is sure to get busier — we will establish clear rules about what can and cannot be done in the Arctic, where, by whom, and how.”