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OTTAWA — As more than twenty thousand activists prepare to converge in front of the White House this weekend to oppose Keystone XL, the Harper government plans to use a two-track message to persuade the U.S. government to approve the pipeline.
It will claim to be as serious about battling climate change as President Barack Obama, and will stress the national security and economic benefits that would result from the project’s construction.
But it will be an uphill sell as Ottawa has continued to delay introduction of long-promised regulations that would rein in emissions from the oil sands, which American environmentalists have targeted as “dirty oil.”
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Sunday he is committed to persuading the American public that Canada is serious about fighting climate change.
“There are people [in the U.S.] who want to be reassured that we’re not cavalier about the environment,” Mr. Oliver said in an interview with The Globe. “One important point is to show that we’re moving in lockstep with the United States on a number of critical issues.”
Mr. Obama raised alarms in Ottawa and in Alberta about the fate of the pipeline when he pledged in his inauguration speech to aggressively tackle climate change, and then appointed as secretary of state Senator John Kerry – a known climate hawk – to oversee the approval process. Pipeline proponents will be watching closely Tuesday night when Mr. Obama lays out his agenda in the State of the Union address, looking for hints as to whether his climate activism leaves room for more imported bitumen from Canada.
Mr. Oliver will likely travel to Washington once Mr. Obama has a new energy secretary in place. Mr. Oliver will make the case that Canada’s climate policies are consistent with Mr. Obama’s approach, echoing Foreign Minister John Baird who visited Mr. Kerry in Washington last week. Both governments have committed under the 2009 Copenhagen accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.
And Ottawa has moved in tandem with Washington to impose increasingly tough fuel-efficiency standards over the next decade, while passing regulations to phase out traditional coal-fired power plants (though that measure will have little impact before 2020).
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