Skip to main content

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/The Associated Press

Stephen Harper said Sunday that Canada is preparing to make a contribution to a UN fund that helps poor countries cope with the impact of climate change, a move that follows a $3-billion donation from the United States. He did not specify an amount.

The prime minister, speaking at the end of Group of 20 leaders' summit in Australia, again lauded the recent 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.

He said he's really happy to see China, one of the world's major emitters, agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Harper said he's been calling for an "international agreement of binding obligations on all major emitters" since 2006 when he took power.

"For the first time, that is actually starting to take shape."

He didn't say how much Canada will pony up. Japan has also announced a $1.5-billion donation to the United Nations' Green Climate Fund.

In a deal announced last week, 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 prime minister, whose government for years has said it would move in lockstep on climate change with the United States, its biggest trading partner, has not given any hint that Ottawa is considering bigger measures.

He did however say that Beijing's agreement is key. "China and 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 in New Zealand last week.

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 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. Obama also repeated his long-standing position that a major factor in whether the United States approves the Keystone XL pipeline project is whether it contributes to overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. President was asked about the long-delayed decision on the pipeline extension that would ship Canadian oil sands crude from Alberta to the U.S.

He appeared slightly exasperated by the question, saying he would give the same answer he gave just days ago while in Myanmar.

"We're going to let the process play itself out," Mr. Obama said.

"The determination will be made in the first instance by the Secretary of State," the president said.

"But I have my opinion about this which is that one major determinant whether we should approve a pipeline shipping Canadian oil, to world markets, not to the United States, is does it contribute to greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change."

On Friday, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed legislation that would approve construction of Keystone XL, voting to send it to the Senate, which is also controlled by the G.O.P. The House has passed similar bills many times in the past.

Should the Senate approve the bill, however, the legislation at the very least could force Mr. Obama to once again confront the question of whether he should green light or kill the pipeline.

Passage is not assured in the Senate, however, and the Democrat President could simply use his veto power to kill the legislation.