New Brunswick

Climate talks could make way for energy projects: Gallant

As Premier Brian Gallant prepares to head to Paris for the UN climate talks, he says the conference could help New Brunswick and Canada make the case for energy projects, such as the Energy East pipeline, by bolstering the country's credibility on climate change.

Premier Brian Gallant says he's open to a carbon tax, but won't introduce a new climate plan immediately

Brian Gallant says the Prime Minister standing up on climate change could help the country and province sell its natural resources internationally. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

As Premier Brian Gallant prepares to head to Paris for the UN climate talks, he says the conference could help New Brunswick and Canada make the case for energy projects, such as the Energy East pipeline, by bolstering the country's credibility on climate change.

"If we want to develop our natural recourses and energy projects and sell our products to the international community, we have to show them we're doing what we can to protect the environment and play our role as a country in combating climate change," Gallant told CBC News.

"We're very happy to see Prime Minister Trudeau step up on climate change because we think it's going to be able to help us on the international stage to sell a lot of our products, and of course it's the right thing to do."

The proposed Energy East pipeline, which would carry crude from Alberta to Saint John, is one of the main energy projects Gallant strongly supports.

It's going to be able to help us on the international stage to sell a lot of our products.- Premier Brian Gallant

Later this week, Gallant will join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other premiers, along with leaders and climate negotiators from 196 countries in Paris to come up with an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions. 

The summit begins Monday and runs until the end of next week.

"I'm hopeful [the premiers attending with Trudeau] will send a message that there's a new brand for Canada, there's a new way of moving forward when it comes to developing our natural resources and energy projects in a responsible way, which I think in turn will help us sell our products and create jobs here at home" Gallant said.

Louise Comeau, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, says she would like to see the Premier move away from his position in favour of the Energy East pipeline (CBC)
Louise Comeau, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, is worried Gallant is moving in the wrong direction, by focusing on the pipeline, instead of ramping up the province's climate change commitments in Paris.

Comeau, who is based outside of Fredericton, is also taking part in the UN climate talks in Paris.

"My concern is that New Brunswick has, to this point in some ways, considered climate change a branding exercise, as a way to look like we're doing something, so we get the Energy East pipeline," Comeau said.

"That's the talk that needs to move to the side. We need a serious commitment to a serious problem in a serious way."

Climate change plan to take time

The Gallant government  has said it's committed to enhancing the province's current climate change action plan, which was created by the previous Conservative government.

But a new plan won't be introduced immediately.

"At this point, I think we're not necessarily in as much of a rush as some other provinces. We have a plan that was updated in June 2014," Gallant said.

The current plan includes a pledge to reduce emissions 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. 

I think we're not necessarily as much of a rush as some other provinces- Premier Brian Gallant

Gallant says it could take a couple months to a year to release a new climate change action plan, to make sure the province consults enough with stakeholders. 

During the Premier's time in office, Gallant has made a regional pledge to reduce emissions, as part of a pact with New England governors and eastern premiers.

Gallant open to carbon tax

Alberta recently released its own plan to reduce emissions, which includes a carbon tax and phasing-out coal-fired power plants.

Gallant says he's open to both options.

"Putting a price is one of the things we'll consider ... all different ideas an suggestions will be looked at," Gallant said.

Brian Keirstead, the environment critic for the Progressive Conservatives, will join Gallant in Paris for the UN climate talks.

It's going to cost the New Brunswick population a lot more money- PC Environment Critic Brian Keirstead

He warns against a carbon tax in New Brunswick.

"It's going to cost the New Brunswick population a lot more money." Keirstead said.

"You can't tax your way out of this, as far as we're concerned."

The federal Liberal government has made it clear that putting a price on carbon is a priority.

Green Party Leader David Coon hopes a new provincial climate change plan would include a price on carbon. (CBC)
Green party Leader David Coon, who will also be travelling to Paris with Gallant, expects carbon pricing to be part of the province's forthcoming climate change plan.

"Now that Trudeau says he wants to see pricing of carbon across the country, that's something that likely wasn't in the plan, it'll now be in the plan," Coon said.

'Poster child in Canada'

Coon says the UN climate talks is an opportunity to speak with Maritime premiers about making the region "a poster child in Canada on how to make the energy transition" away from fossil fuels.

"We're small enough and we're smart enough to turn the ship around fairly quickly and be, in a sense, a testing ground for the rest of Canada," Coon said. 

"It's like when companies roll out new products. They test them in some particular cities all the time. 

"So we could be the testing ground for how we make this energy transition in Canada," Coon said.

We could be the testing ground for how we make this energy transition in Canada- Green Party Leader David Coon

The Green party leader says that will take support from Ottawa and a tight level of cooperation between the three Maritime provinces on "greening the electricity grid."

Comeau, of Climate Action Network Canada, would like to see more regional co-operation, such as emissions trading and carbon pricing initiatives.

She says Gallant should be prepared to talk about how he plans to fulfil New Brunswick's regional pledges in Paris.

"New Brunswick has a commitment that it made at the last meeting of Atlantic premiers and New England governors, and it should be ready to talk about how it intends to move forward," Comeau said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julianne Hazlewood is a multimedia journalist who's worked at CBC newsrooms across the country as a host, video journalist, reporter and producer. Have a story idea? julianne.hazlewood@cbc.ca

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