June 9, 2014 / 7:31 PM / 5 years ago

Australia, Canada: Climate change steps must not hurt economy

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The right-leaning leaders of Canada and Australia, both under pressure over their environmental records, on Monday said action to fight climate change should not harm their nations’ economies.

The Obama administration last week unveiled regulations that would force the U.S. power sector to cut carbon dioxide output 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

The move focused critics’ attention on Canada - a big energy exporter that has no chance of meeting current climate change targets - and Australia, where the new government is pushing to repeal taxes on carbon and mining emissions.

Asked whether the new U.S. initiative put them under any pressure to rethink their approaches, both leaders made clear that it did not.

“We think that climate change is a significant problem. It’s not the only - or even the most important - problem that the world faces,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a joint news conference with his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper.

“We should do what we reasonably can to limit emissions and avoid man-made climate change, but we shouldn’t clobber the economy. That’s why I have always been against a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme because it harms our economy without necessarily helping the environment,” he said.

Abbott’s Liberals took power last year after promising to scrap mining and carbon taxes on the grounds they had boosted industry costs while doing little to cut emissions. Greens decried the decision.

Abbott said Obama’s plan matched steps his government was planning to take. Harper said Canada had already taken much stricter measures to fight power plant pollution.

Canada has pledged to cut output of greenhouse gases by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. But official figures show this target cannot be met unless further measures are taken.

One major challenge is mushrooming emissions from the energy sector, in particular the oil sands.

“It’s not that we don’t seek to deal with climate change. But we seek to deal with it in a way that will protect and enhance our ability to create jobs and growth, not destroy jobs and growth in our countries,” said Harper.

No nation would fight global warming if it meant taking steps that would harm the economy, he said.

“We are just a little bit more frank about that, but that is the approach that every country is seeking,” he added.

Canada’s Conservative government pulled out of the Kyoto accord on climate change in 2011, saying the pact did not cover all major emitters of greenhouse gasses, notably the United States and China.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Dan Grebler

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