Canada

No carbon tax, international carbon trading, Baird says

Environment Minister John Baird is dismissing a carbon tax or international carbon trading as ways of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Environment Minister John Baird has dismissed theidea of a carbon tax or international carbon trading market as ways of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Sporting what has become his familiar green tie, Baird appeared Thursday before the House of Commons committeestudying the government's proposed clean air act.

Baird told the committee thefederal government has set short-term targets to regulate air pollutants and greenhouse gases emissions in all industry by 2010.

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty challenged Bairdon whether he supports a carbon tax on industry, asking whether he agrees "it's time to charge for the rightto pollute into the atmosphere."

"I disagree with the notion of a carbon tax," Baird said."Our approach will be to provide regulationfor industry to ensure we reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air pollutants.

"We don't sit around the cabinet table dreaming up ways to increase taxes. That's certainly more common in the McGuinty family than it is in the Harper cabinet," Baird said, in a reference to McGuinty's brother Dalton, the premier of Ontario.

Baird also ruled out an internationalcarbon trading market.

Trading system

The Kyoto Protocol allows countries to use a trading system to help meet the accord's goal of reducing the world's greenhouse gas emissions by an average 5.2 per cent relative to 1990 levels by 2012.

Any country struggling to meet its targets may buy credits — essentially the right to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide — from countries exceeding their reduction targets.

"I certainly believe thatCanadian families don'tbelieve … it's in the best interest of Canadian taxpayers to buy credits —hot air credits in places like Russia —where we are only compensating for previous government action," Baird said.

Baird said buying credits would be an easy approach,but that it would be a bad investment for Canada and that the government would rather spend the money at home.

But Bairdsaid he is moving toward acarbon trading market in Canada. This would allow acompany in one part ofthe countryto invest in green projects somewhere else in Canada and be given credit for reducing its emissions.

Heated exchange

Baird also got into a heated exchange with McGuinty over how much the government has spent on the environment.

McGuinty hammered Baird over the question and accusedthe governmentof cutting $5.6 billion.

Baird would only sayspending was "significantly more" than the previous government.

"We'renot going to spend money on things that don't work," Baird said.

"You can't answer the question, minister," McGuinty responded.

"You're the minister ofthe environment,you can't tellCanadians how much money you spent in the last year. Should wecall the minister of finance to tell us?"

Baird shot back that he was not "going to take advice" fromMcGuinty on the government.

"You were the chief adviser to theprime minister on the environment and that's the record," Baird said, pointing to a chart showing greenhouse gasesrising during the time the Liberals were in power.

Fears for the economy

Earlier at the committee, Baird reaffirmed the government's position that it will not attempt to meet the greenhouse gas targets set out in the Kyoto treaty, saying there would be severe economic ramifications.

"To achieve that kind of target through domestic reductions would require a rate of emissions decline unmatched by any modern nation in the history of the world, except [by] those who have suffered economic collapse, such as Russia."

Earlier this week, members of Parliament voted in favour of amotion thatreaffirms Canada's support for the Kyoto Protocol. The Tories voted against it.

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