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EU commissioner takes aim at Canada’s emissions target

Canada is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions target, the European Union Commissioner for Climate Action says.

“I know Canada has a target, but I also know that you’re really not on track to meet that target,” Connie Hedegaard said in an interview on the Global News program The West Block with Tom Clark, days after meeting with Environment Minister Peter Kent in Brussels.

“In Europe, we are very much on track to meet that target.”

Hedegaard wouldn’t comment specifically on the European view of Canada’s environmental track record, but drew a line between either country’s approach to combating climate change.

“In Europe, we actually made a pledge back from the beginning … We made a pledge and we are very sincere in delivering on this and we’re on track to do that. But you cannot do that if you, sector after sector, you say, ‘Oh no, here we cannot touch this and this, that will also be a bit inconvenient,'” she said, criticizing the Conservative’s drawn out sector-by-sector regulatory approach.

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Kent’s office did not return a request for comment.

The federal government has for months been trying to hammer out a plan with provinces and officials from the oil and gas industry — some of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions growth — to help curb emissions, but has yet to ink a deal.

Hedegaard’s admonition comes as Canada and the EU continue negotiations on a trade deal, and straight on the heels of Prime Minister Stephen Harper ‘s trip to New York last week, where he was hawking Canadian energy, making the case for the Keystone XL pipeline and rebutting assertions that Alberta’s oil sands are an environmental menace.

But the sales pitch didn’t seem to sway the EU.

European officials, in an effort to tackle climate change, have been focusing on the transport sectors, Hedegaard said.

“We’re doing that in many different ways, and one of the ways, of course, will be to look at fuels,” she said. “We are trying to make each fuel account as much as we can from the knowledge we have, from the science we have for the real (carbon dioxide) value it has”

That policy, she explained, draws a line between conventional fuels (those extracted through conventional methods such as wells) and unconventional fuels (those extracted through unconventional methods such as oil shale and tar sands).

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“And that’s where this debate started, because science tells us a there is a difference,” Hedegaard said. That difference, she said, lies in the tar sands emitting more carbon dioxide than conventional oil.

“The only thing we’re saying in Europe is, therefore it should be accounted for in the right manner. We’re not prohibiting the import of oil from Canada. Of course we are not. We’re just saying it must account for its true value.”

There has been a constant parade of federal ministers, as well as from Alberta, Premier Alison Redford and her ministers, heading to the United States to pitch Canada’s energy.

Harper and the other conservative politicians tied closely to the oil sands have, time and again, underscored the country’s environmental record — one they describe as desirable — and the benefits of Alberta’s tar sands.

Moreover, the Harper government says the country is already halfway toward meeting its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions target. Whether Canada can make up the other half in the next seven years remains a lingering question.

The target in question is hooked to the Copenhagen Accord, under which Canada pledged to cut its emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.

The government is hanging its successes on a report Environment Canada released last year that suggested Canada was halfway to its target.

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Critics, however, accused the Conservatives of exaggerating the successes. They instead suggest that milestone was achieved more through the actions of provincial governments, increasingly efficient technologies and a new international agreement that provides Canada with credits for its dense and sprawling forests — and that reaching the 2020 goal could require a national carbon-pricing strategy.

Although the potential harmfulness of Canada’s tar sands has some foreign governments looking at them carefully with a discerning eye, there is no discrimination against Canada, at least from the EU’s standpoint, Hedegaard said.

“I do not know how many times I have heard different Canadian politicians claim as if we are stigmatizing, in particular, Canada,” she said. “Can you imagine any good reason why Europe should do that or would do that? Of course that’s no what is at stake.”

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