The two Canadian ministers negotiating with car makers over cuts in emissions are split on what to do, with one favoring binding restrictions and the other saying he wants the talks to continue.
FREDERICTON, New Brunswick The two Canadian ministers negotiating with car makers over cuts in emissions are split on what to do, with one favoring binding restrictions and the other saying he wants the talks to continue.
Ottawa says that by 2010 it wants car makers to cut emissions by 25 percent from 1995 levels. But major automobile manufacturers say it would be hard to introduce new technologies at such short notice to meet Ottawa's demands and the two sides have yet to reach a deal.
Environment Minister Stephane Dion threatened on Thursday to impose binding restrictions, saying the talks had gone on long enough.
"This (imposing restrictions) is something we want to avoid in Canada because we want an agreement with the car makers. But at the same time, if unfortunately we don't get an agreement, we'll have to act," he told Reuters in an interview.
"We've been discussing things for a long time and now it's enough. I hope we'll come to an agreement very soon because we can't carry on for months with this lack of certainty which is good for neither the economy or the environment."
Cutting emissions from cars is one way Canada hopes to meet its targets under the Kyoto protocol on climate change, which obliges Ottawa to cut output of greenhouse gases by six percent from 1990 levels by 2012.
Canadian emissions are in fact about 20 percent above 1990 levels and senior government officials candidly admit the country has no chance of meeting its Kyoto goals.
One of the reasons Canada is struggling is that the climate change file is shared between the environment ministry and the ministry of natural resources, which is responsible for the well-being of Canada's booming energy sector.
Natural Resources Minister John Efford, who along with Dion is talking to the car makers, was noticeably less enthusiastic about the idea of binding regulations on the major car makers.
"I want to give them a chance ... I feel confident that they will come back with some good recommendations," he told Reuters in a separate interview.
"If not, then we have to take some alternative measures. But I am working with the automobile industry on a voluntary protocol and I want to continue on with that," he said.
Efford said he and Dion had "a very frank discussion" with the car makers in December about the need to meet the 25 percent emissions cut target. He said new talks were planned for the near future but did not name a specific date.
Last week Dion visited California, which has told car makers to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2016.
"The Californians showed us that ... the technologies are in place and this could be done easily. The higher (purchase) price people would pay would very rapidly be made up by the savings at the pump," he said.