Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is aiming to launch negotiations with the United States and Mexico on a continental energy and climate accord when he travels to Paris this week for an energy ministers' meeting.
"I have a mandate to work with U.S. and Mexican ministers to develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement," Mr. Carr said in an interview Friday, though he offered no specifics as to what such a pact might include.
At the same time, he said Ottawa will engage with the provinces and territories to build on the national energy strategy the premiers announced last summer, which committed provinces to co-ordinate their efforts on clean-energy development, the transportation and transmission of oil, natural gas and electricity, and climate-change policies. Former prime minister Stephen Harper refused to participate in the provincially led effort.
Mr. Carr will also work with industry to engage with First Nations to affirm the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which includes their right to "free, prior and informed consent" over projects planned for their traditional territory.
Mr. Carr left Sunday for Paris and expects to meet with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and his Mexican counterpart, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, on the sidelines of the International Energy Agency ministerial meeting this week. The IEA confirmed the meeting will proceed, despite Friday's terrorist attack that left at least 132 dead in the French capital.
The rookie Member of Parliament from Winnipeg once served as deputy leader in the Manitoba Liberal government and was founding chief executive of the Manitoba Business Council.
Working with Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, Mr. Carr is looking to build on a foundation laid by former Conservative natural resources minister Greg Rickford, who agreed in May to establish a ministerial working group that promised collaboration in areas such as developing a clean-energy power grid; imposing regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and strengthening standards for energy efficiency in equipment, appliances and buildings.
The Liberal government is looking to elevate the discussion to conclude an overarching accord with the U.S. and Mexico on commercialization and deployment of low-carbon energy technologies and a common approach on reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions. President Barack Obama reached a similar deal earlier this year with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
One area of potential collaboration is in the international trade in carbon credits. The former Conservative government indicated it would meet its 2030 targets in part by purchasing international credits, essentially financing projects in other countries that can reduce GHG emissions far more cheaply than can be achieved at home. Mexico is eager to access Canadian and American markets to sell such credits.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley are both promising more aggressive action on climate change, and argue that a credible national plan will build public support for energy infrastructure, including pipelines needed to move oil-sands crude to new markets. Some oil company executives acknowledge they need to do more on climate but the sector is battered by rock-bottom crude and natural prices, and the industry is wary of policies that will add to their cost burdens.
Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said the three governments may issue a joint statement ahead of the Paris climate summit, which starts Nov. 30, indicating their intention to take a continental approach to climate policy. Such a deal could include assurances that Canadian cross-border infrastructure would face no more onerous regulatory scrutiny than U.S. projects, said Mr. Robertson, now vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, a Calgary-based think tank.
Mr. Carr takes on the portfolio at a critical time, with his government promising a more ambitious climate strategy and more onerous environmental regulations even as the commodities sector struggles with depressed global prices. He said the resource sector must focus on innovation to build projects that are both profitable and environmentally sustainable. "I'm also very conscious of the impact that the cyclical movement is having on families, with job losses," he said. "It's my job – and our job as a government – to make the argument that it is possible – and we are committed – to create sustainable jobs in the natural resources sector that will extend coast to coast in Canada."