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Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks during a news conference in Paris on Nov. 29. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks during a news conference in Paris on Nov. 29. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

paris climate talks

Latin American countries object to carbon trading references at Paris talks Add to ...

Canada’s rookie environment minister, Catherine McKenna, has spent the late hours of the Paris climate summit stickhandling objections from Venezuela and other Latin American countries to any reference to carbon trading in the final agreement.

An international lawyer prior to running for Parliament, Ms. McKenna was asked by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to facilitate negotiations on what the United Nations calls “co-operative mechanisms,” a term that avoids the word “market,” which is a lightning rod for some socialist countries of the developing world.

The vague nomenclature didn’t deter the Venezuelans and their allies from Bolivia and Ecuador. At late-night negotiating sessions, the Latin Americans demanded removal of a paragraph that endorsed the use of internationally traded credits so long as the market system promotes sustainable development and uses robust accounting to avoid double counting of emission reductions.

Ms. McKenna held a series of meetings with Mr. Fabius, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Venezuelan delegation, which is part of the “co-operative mechanisms” negotiating group.

The Canadian minister advocated this week for inclusion of language on human rights and indigenous rights, and for reference in the text of the desire to strive to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

But with emissions trading, she had to be more deft, acknowledging Venezuela’s concern while advancing the desire of parties such as the European Union, New Zealand and Japan to have supportive language in the agreement. Mr. Fabius plans to release a “final” text on Saturday, when it will become clear whether she succeeded.

The “markets” language is particularly important for Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, which have embarked on carbon pricing plans that include the trading of emission credits among one another and with California and potentially other jurisdictions.

A report released in Paris this week urged Canadian provinces to join with states, provinces and countries in the U.S., Mexico, China and within the European Union to form the basis of a global carbon market.

Recognition in the Paris accord would prod countries to come up with common accounting and reporting standards that would facilitate market development, said Katie Sullivan, Toronto-based director of North American policy for the International Emissions Trading Association. Provinces could move ahead without it, she added, but expanding to international markets would be more difficult.

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