Kent pledges tough environmental watch

Peter Kent, Canada's new environment minister, is defending his government's record and plans for handling the ministry's controversial issues.

Peter Kent, Canada's new environment minister, is defending his government's record and plans for handling the ministry's controversial issues.

The Conservatives have come under criticism domestically and abroad over a lack of action on key issues such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing environmental damage in the Alberta oilsands.     

Speaking Thursday on CBC-TV's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, Kent said the government is "on target" to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2020.

Kent said Canadians can expect new emission rules "very shortly" for heavy trucks and said there will be new regulations for carbon-fired electrical power generating stations.

Environment Minister Peter Kent will not commit to Canada twinning its regulations with tougher new industrial emission rules the U.S. has said it plans to roll out. ((CBC))

He did not, however, commit to Canada twinning its regulations with tougher new industrial emission rules the Obama administration has said it plans to roll out under the U.S. Environmental Protection Association.

"We will not follow their course," said Kent. "The American and Canadian large emitters both in coal-fired power generating and other large emitters … we have a very different situation here," said Kent.

"The two situations are entirely different. Canada … [has] a much smaller coal-fired power generation sector that the united States does. The American coal-fired sector is huge."

Regarding recent criticism levelled at environmental damage in the Alberta oilsands, Kent said the sector has received a "bad rap" in recent years.

Oilsands 'are absolutely ethical'

Kent said oil from the oilsands "is absolutely ethical" and defended the Conservatives' plan for continuing to monitor the sector.

"There is oversight," said Kent. "There is monitoring. The practices and the technology in the industry have improved incredibly over recent years and there's a great deal of exaggeration of exactly how much the oilsands contribute to, for example, greenhouse gas emissions domestically or internationally."

"The total, greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands production are a small percentage of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

He added that Canada needed to "reassure the American people" that the oilsands are ethical "in every sense of the word."

On his show, Solomon played a clip from Kent's days as a journalist with CBC-TV. In the clip from a 1984 edition of The Journal, Kent warns viewers about the imminent changes that will come due to the greenhouse effect.

"The scientific community is virtually unanimous in the prediction of a warming trend," Kent said in his report. "And that the irreversible warming will create major disruption of what we've come to consider normal weather pattern. The disagreement seems to be in the timing and magnitude of the disruptions."

Speaking to Solomon on Thursday, Kent said much of what was outlined in that report has proven true.

"At that time it was a new theory," Kent said. "In the last couple of years the intergovernmental climate change panel has concluded that there is overwhelming evidence, 95 per cent probability that in fact all of the suppositions in the theory have in fact happened and continue to happen now."