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Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, seen in the House of Commons last week, says Ottawa needs to dramatically reduce its fossil fuel use and invest in projects to offset its remaining greenhouse gas emissions in order to become carbon neutral.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna wants to see the federal government essentially eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations as it works with the United States and Mexico on a continent-wide plan to fight climate change.

In a session on Tuesday with Mexican Environment Minister Rafael Pacchiano-Alaman, Ms. McKenna said Ottawa needs to do more to put its own house in order to become "carbon neutral" – which involves dramatically reducing its fossil fuel use and investing in projects to offset its remaining greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto are set to announce Wednesday a number of joint actions to combat global warming, including supporting efforts to build a continent-wide network of electric-vehicle charging stations. They will also set a North America-wide target of 50-per-cent clean-energy power by 2025, while Mexico will join Canada and the United States in targeting a 45-per-cent reduction in methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 2025.

Ottawa is also working with the provinces and territories to produce a pan-Canadian climate plan next fall to reduce emissions in building, transportation, the oil and gas sector and agriculture and forestry. But the federal government needs to lead by example, using its procurement power to encourage commercialization of clean-energy technology and driving down its own emissions, Ms. McKenna said.

"We can't expect everyone to go and take these actions if we at the federal government aren't willing to do so," she said. However, the minister did not offer a plan for achieving a carbon-neutral target, a goal that has yet to be put to cabinet. British Columbia has a carbon-neutral plan under which the provincial government purchased $233-million in emission-reduction "offset credits" between 2009 and 2014.

The Canadian minister said the North America-wide approach represents an enormous opportunity for this country's clean-technology sector to expand their exports, which have failed to keep up with the growing international market.

Mexico is determined to boost the clean-energy component of its electricity sector to 35 per cent in 2024, from 3 per cent currently, Mr. Pacchiano-Alaman said. The country is also dramatically increasing its use of natural gas to replace fuel oil and diesel, which will reduce emissions. In both cases, it is looking for foreign investment to finance its energy revolution.

Canadian renewable energy producers are already starting to invest outside the country – mostly in the United States – and Mexico represents an attractive market, said Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. They include some traditional resource companies that are expanding their renewable energy portfolios, such asTransAlta Corp., Enbridge Inc., Kruger Inc. and Boralex Inc.

TransCanada Corp. has invested $5-billion (U.S.) in natural gas pipelines in Mexico, and is "assessing opportunities" in natural gas and liquids pipelines, and power generation. "We are excited about the growth of our business in Mexico and the doors opening as a result of Mexico's government reforms," company spokesman Mark Cooper said.

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