Proposed U.S. climate change legislation poses risks for some Canadian

OTTAWA, Nov. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's energy-intensive industries could be adversely affected by border tariffs if Canadian climate change policies are seen as less demanding than the eventual U.S. legislation, according to a Conference Board of Canada report issued today.

"U.S. climate change legislation is unlikely to pass in 2010, and the prospects for a global climate breakthrough in Copenhagen next month are dim," said Gary Hufbauer, co-author of U.S. Climate Legislation Implications and Prospects: Challenges for Canada, published by the Conference Board's International Trade and Investment Centre. The publication provides a perspective from a U.S. expert on the implications of proposed legislation for Canada.

"We now have an idea of the future direction of U.S. policy, especially now that President Obama has announced that he is going to offer fixed targets for U.S. emission cuts in Copenhagen," said Hufbauer. "The mechanisms envisaged in future U.S. federal and state legislation would affect numerous Canadian industries, and pose challenges to Alberta's oil sands."

Elements of the emerging U.S. legislation that would have repercussions for Canada include:

    -   a highly complex emissions cap-and-trade system with many industries
        given "free allowances";
    -   punitive measures against U.S. trading partners that do not undertake
        similar climate action;
    -   renewable energy standards for electricity generation that could
        exclude Canadian hydro power (though Environmental Protection Agency
        emissions caps for electricity generators could encourage increased
        hydro exports);
    -   temporary prohibition against states running their own cap-and-trade
        programs-this could affect Canadian provinces that are members of the
        Western Climate Initiative;
    -   low-carbon fuel standards at the state level - most prominently in
        California - that could negatively affect Canada's oil sands
        projects; and
    -   rebates extended to US firms in excess of their emission abatement
        costs that could lower the price of US goods relative to Canadian

China - not Canada - is likely the intended target of punitive border measures. But if the proposed legislation eventually passes, and if Canada does not adopt similar measures, Canada's energy-intensive industries could face carbon tariffs at the U.S. border.

In this circumstance, a number of Canadian industries might have to buy emissions permits at the U.S. border if Canada is seen to have climate policies that are less stringent than the United States. The most important in terms of trade value are: paper, petrochemicals, plastic materials, iron and steel, aluminum, and other non-ferrous metals. The report notes that some of the proposed US measures could be challenged under World Trade Organization rules.

The Canadian government announced last week that it will delay its own climate policy until the shape of US and global agreements become clearer.

Gary Hufbauer is the Reginald Jones Senior Fellow at Washington's Peterson Institute for International Economics, and co-author Jisun Kim is a research assistant at the institute. The Conference Board's International Trade and Investment Centre is intended to help Canadian leaders better understand what global economic dynamics - such as global and regional supply chains, domestic barriers to trade, US policies, or tighter border security - could mean for public policies and business strategies.

SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: For further information: Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: (613) 526-3090 ext. 448, E-mail:

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