Ottawa will delay the release of climate regulations until there is a firm agreement on a global approach and clarity on how the United States intends to regulate emissions - which could take until late 2010, Environment Minister Jim Prentice says.
In a conference call from Copenhagen, Mr. Prentice said it is important Canada harmonize its "continental" approach with whatever final agreement emerges from the global effort to reach a climate change treaty.
While he expressed cautious optimism that countries could reach a political agreement on the key elements of such a deal, the minister said it could take many months for the final legal accord to be concluded.
At the same time, the U.S. Senate is still debating legislation that would establish national emission caps and a market-based system for trading permits, and passage of the bill is far from assured.
Earlier this year, Mr. Prentice promised to table Canada's proposed regulations prior to the December meeting in Copenhagen where countries had hoped to conclude a global treaty.
Now, however, the minister says it would be "imprudent" to lay out Canada's regulations without being certain of obligations will flow from the international treaty, or how the Americans are proceeding.
Those "will dictate the way we go forward in this country," he said.
The Harper government has said Canada will reduce its greenhouse gas emission by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020. That target has been criticized as insufficient by environmentalists and some European countries, especially since it does not account for Canada's failure to reduce emissions since signing the Kyoto protocol.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in China that he was aiming for an agreement in Copenhagen that would have "immediate operational effect."
Mr. Prentice said a political agreement would allow for the start of funding for developing countries for reduce their emissions and prepare for adaptation to climate change. It could also signal to countries the expectations that would guide their domestic regulations.