Manitoba signs carbon market agreement with Ontario, Quebec at Paris climate conference

Manitoba signed an environmental agreement today with Ontario and Quebec to join the cap and trade carbon market, but still has no timeline for when it will begin in the province.

Premier Greg Selinger says there's no timeline for cap and trade market in Manitoba, unlike Ontario

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, left, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, center, and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger shake hands during a signing ceremony at the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference Monday, Dec. 7, 2015 in Le Bourget, north of Paris. The Paris conference is the 21st time world governments are meeting to seek a joint solution to climate change. The talks are focused on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, primarily by shifting from oil, coal and gas to cleaner sources of energy. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) (Christophe Ena/Associated Press)

Manitoba signed an environmental agreement Monday with Ontario and Quebec to join the cap-and-trade carbon market, but still has no timeline for when it will begin in the province.

Premier Greg Selinger made the announcement at the Paris climate change conference.

"What does that mean for Manitobans? It means we start tackling these issues like very serious weather events, major floods that are causing people to be pushed out of their homes," Selinger said on the phone from Paris.

A cap-and-trade carbon market sets an amount of greenhouse gas emissions that large emitters are allowed. Businesses are then able to buy and sell emissions allowances within the overall carbon market. 

Scientists say greenhouse gases are a leading cause of global warming. 

"It's an issue for the whole planet and the only way to solve it is everybody tries to make a way to make a positive contribution," Selinger said.

The memorandum of understanding with Ontario and Quebec, called the Co-operation in the Area of Climate Change, builds on previous agreements to end climate change, but Selinger said this is the first agreement between the three to link their carbon markets.

California was the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce cap-and-trade system. 
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said there is no timeline for when his government would officially launch cap-and-trade. (Jim Cole/Associated Press)

In a joint statement with Manitoba and Quebec, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn said the agreement is an important step to end climate change.

"Greenhouse-gas emissions do not recognize borders, so climate change cannot be fought by individual governments alone," she said in the statement.

No timeline for Manitoba carbon market 

Quebec's cap-and-trade system is already in place. Ontario is expected to start its carbon market Jan. 1, 2017.

The first auction for emissions sales in Ontario is expected in March 2017.

Manitoba's premier said there is still no timeline for when his government would officially launch cap-and-trade, nor when it would start selling emission allowances to the 19 biggest emitters in the province which would be involved in the cap.

"We don't have a hard date for that yet," he said. "We have to do a lot of work to design the market and get it in place and consult the large emitters that are going to be covered by it."

A large part of designing the market will be deciding how much carbon allowance one company can purchase from another.

When Selinger unveiled the province's cap-and-trade system Dec. 3, the Manitoba Energy Justice coalition worried carbon offsets would be too high, allowing large emitters to emit carbon virtually unchecked.

Under the Western Climate Initiative, to which Manitoba belongs, carbon offsets can be as high as 50 per cent of a business's carbon emissions, Selinger said, but he said he will aim for Quebec's cap of eight per cent. 

"We'll take a look at having a lower threshold like Quebec has," Selinger said. "Eight per cent sounds like a reasonable thing, but we want to go out and consult people."

Koch Fertilizer in Brandon is Manitoba's largest greenhouse gas emitter with about three per cent of the province's emissions. Koch has not responded to repeated request for comment on Manitoba's move to join the cap-and-trade market. 

Manitoba signed another agreement Monday at the climate conference to protect forests and lakes.

There were seven other signatories to that memorandum of understanding including Wales, Vermont and Sao Paulo.

Selinger is expected to be at the Paris climate negotiations until Thursday.

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