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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, seen here, said he hopes Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is 'not surrendering Canada’s interest before even getting to the Madrid conference.'BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is calling on the federal government to reconsider its position on the role liquefied natural gas exports can play in its emissions reduction targets.

Responding to a report in The Globe and Mail that the Liberal government is departing from its previous position that lower-emitting LNG exports should count toward Canada’s targets, Mr. Kenney said in Ottawa Monday that the change is disappointing.

The prospect that LNG would be able to count toward Canada’s emissions goals has been a bright light for the oil and gas sector as it tries to remain viable in the face of more stringent climate policies. LNG is being pitched by industry as a bridge from the more carbon-intensive fossil fuels to renewable energy, because it’s a lower-emitting fossil fuel compared to coal.

“I hope he’s not surrendering Canada’s interest before even getting to the Madrid conference,” Mr. Kenney said about Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

Mr. Wilkinson departed for Spain on Monday evening for the international climate negotiations, which started last week and ends Friday. A central issue for negotiators at this round of talks is to finalize Article 6, which will spell out the rules that countries who want to enter into emissions trading schemes will have to follow.

The section is key for Canada’s climate plan because it will allow emission cuts made through Quebec’s cap-and-trade system with California to be counted toward Canada’s overall targets. However, the oil and gas sector has also been hoping that exports of LNG could qualify.

Countries such as China rely heavily on coal for their electricity generation; the industry’s argument is that if LNG is exported to these countries to replace the current coal-supplied electricity, then Canada should get credit for the resulting emissions cut.

On Monday, The Globe reported the government’s new position. Mr. Wilkinson said LNG exports are a long way off from being able to qualify. He said domestic emissions from LNG’s extraction and production, ensuring that LNG does in fact displace coal and that the emissions cuts wouldn’t be double counted are all items that still need to be addressed.

“I’m disappointed,” Mr. Kenney said. He noted that provincial governments of different political stripes agree on the issue.

The B.C. environment ministry didn’t say whether it also wants to count LNG exports toward its emissions targets. However, spokesman David Karn said emissions from the LNG Canada development are fully accounted for in the B.C. climate plan.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, who opposes LNG development, said Mr. Wilkinson’s comments show “we’re seeing truth in this file instead of more rhetoric.”

The production of LNG will increase British Columbia’s greenhouse gas emissions significantly. The $40-billion LNG Canada development would generate, in the first phase, 3.4 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. That is close to a tenth of the total emissions that will be allowed in B.C. in the year 2030.

The federal Conservatives also raised the issue in Question Period on Monday, accusing Mr. Wilkinson of “thumbing his nose” at the sector. Mr. Wilkinson was undeterred by comments from Opposition MPs and Mr. Kenney, telling reporters his first priority is to find agreement on the international emissions trading rules and then seeing if LNG fits into it.

“We’re not building a plan to simply trade away reductions,” Mr. Wilkinson said on Monday. “That doesn’t mean that I’m not saying LNG in the future can’t be part of an overall structure,” he said, “but the focus of the climate plan is on reducing our own domestic emissions.”

Mr. Kenney was in Ottawa for a two-day trip. He will meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday.

With reports from Justine Hunter