Stephen Harper welcomed a deal between China and the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions but gave no indication he would commit to bigger reductions on behalf of Canada.
In a deal announced late Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed their two countries to targets that would see the Americans cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent from 2005 levels by 2025, and fast-growing China halt the increase in its emissions by 2030.
The U.S.-China climate deal would seem to put pressure on Mr. Harper to make greater progress on reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions as he heads into an election year.
But the Canadian Prime Minister, whose government for years has said it would move in lockstep on climate change with the United States, its biggest trading partner, did not give any hint that Ottawa is considering bigger measures.
Mr. Harper called the U.S.-China agreement "a very positive thing," saying that he's long believed any international deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions must include all the big emitters.
"For some time we have been saying we favour an international agreement that would include all major emitters, China the United States together, one and two, make up more than 40 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions," the Prime Minister said at a press conference in Auckland, N.Z. following meetings with his New Zealand counterpart.
"It's always been my view that not only do they have to be involved in such an agreement but that an agreement is only possible and will essentially be done if they both come to the table – which they appear to be doing."
The bilateral agreement from the world's two largest emitters will pressure other countries to deepen their climate commitments as the international community works towards a global treaty to be concluded at the United Nations summit in Paris next year.
Canada is currently well short of hitting its 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. The U.S. has a better chance of hitting that goal as its coal-fired electricity system switches to natural gas, and President Obama looks to accelerate the trend with new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mr. Harper noted Canada has already worked closely with the Obama administration on greenhouse gas emission cuts, in particular the transportation sector. "We've done our own electricity sector regulations which are well ahead of the United States'. We have the cleanest electrical sector in the world and it will be even more clean in the years to come as a consequence of the regulations we brought in on coal."
Both Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama are heading to the Group of 20 summit in Brisbane and the Canadian Prime Minister said he respects his Australian counterpart's decision to focus the discussion on economic growth and job creation. Some critics have said climate change should be on the agenda.
Mr. Harper said he didn't see the China-U.S. deal having any impact on whether the White House approves the Keystone XL pipeline project to carry Canadian oil sands crude to the U.S..
"It's very clear approving the Keystone project – which is ultimately a decision for the American government – is very clear that is in the economic and job creation interests of both of our countries. It's in the energy security interests of North America and it's clear that it's better for environmental protection than the alternatives."
With a report from Shawn McCarthy in Ottawa