Canada hedges on 2010 start for emissions rules

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada’s rules for cutting greenhouse gas emissions may not come into effect by 2010 as had been planned, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said on Thursday.

The rules may be ready by next year but the implementation timing will depend on discussions with other countries -- including the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner-- for economic competitiveness reasons, Prentice said.

Prentice, speaking to reporters from London, cited a major climate change proposal now before Congress in Washington that sees regulations for different sectors of the U.S. economy beginning to take effect between 2012 and 2016.

“We will need to ensure that the application dates for Canadian climate change policies are harmonized with the Untied States or at least that we give close consideration to how and when individual sectors of the American economy will be regulated,” Prentice said.

The Conservative government has pledged to cut Canada’s carbon emissions 20 percent from 2006 levels by 2020. In a shift in position last year it also said it would work to develop a North American-wide cap and trade system to limit emissions of greenhouse gasses, blamed for climate change.

The government’s “Turning the Corner” called in 2008 for the regulations to be finalized this year and come into force on January 1, 2010.

Environmental groups have complained that Ottawa’s proposed cuts do not go far enough, and the Pembina Institute blasted Prentice’s comments about a potential delay.

“Canada must develop and implement regulations urgently if we are to have a chance of influencing U.S. decisions, ending uncertainty that is bad for business and meeting emission reduction targets that are aligned with science,” the environmental group said in a press release.

Prentice said that while drafters of the climate change rules were “mindful” of the current economic and budget situation, that did not have a direct impact because they were dealing with longer-term concerns.

“I don’t think there is an inconsistency between the two,” he said.

He also said the world’s biggest greenhouse gas producers have edged closer to agreement on a deal to fight global warming at a planned meeting later this year intended to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

Canada signed the Kyoto agreement under a former Liberal government, but the Conservatives backed away from the deal after they got elected arguing the sharp cuts required would do too much damage to Canada’s economy.

Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson