09/11/2009: Ottawa: Ambassador Jacobson and Environment Minister
Prentice discuss continental carbon market and oil sands









E.O. 12958: N/A


SUBJECT: Ottawa: Ambassador Jacobson and Environment Minister

Prentice discuss continental carbon market and oil sands

1) Summary: During an engaging introductory lunch on

November 5, 2009, Ambassador Jacobson and Canadian Minister of the

Environment Jim Prentice covered a wide variety of issues, ranging

from Canada´s international reputation and potential damage from

oil sands coverage to exploring the possibility of a harmonized

continental carbon market and collaborating on the Great Lakes.

Minister Prentice clearly indicated his interest in working closely

with the Obama Administration and both parties stressed the

importance of the environment globally, but also as a key component

of our bilateral agenda. As an immediate follow-up, Minister

Prentice asked for assistance in setting up a conversation with

Senator Kerry to discuss some key issues of concern to Canada in

regard to potential Senate climate legislation. The Ambassador

also agreed to assess interest in Washington on further exploring

the benefits of a continental carbon market. Based on the breadth

and scope of their discussion, the meeting established common

interest and a mutual intention to push forward a strong

environmental dialogue. End Summary.

2) From the onset of lunch, Minister Prentice was clearly

making every effort to establish a connection with Ambassador

Jacobson, outlining his respect for the Administration and his

interest in President Obama´s "back story", persona, and goals.

The tone was very collegial and Prentice appeared unrushed,

focused, and interested in getting to know the Ambassador on a

personal level, sharing stories about his daughter, life in

Alberta, and his love for the outdoors. Prentice appeared keen to

forge a personal relationship with Ambassador Jacobson - to the

mutual benefit of both countries. Note: Prentice is

widely-considered to be the most respected member of Prime Minister

Harper´s inner circle and enjoys Harper´s complete trust. He is

the lead Minister for climate change, as well as the lead on the

Clean Energy Dialogue and Northern Gas pipelines.

3) During a discussion of the Ambassador´s travels, Prentice

asked for his views on the oil sands. Prentice shared that he was

concerned about the media focus on the sands and the possible

impact on Canada´s international reputation. He recalled that he

was first concerned about oil sands coverage during a trip to

Norway where the public was debating whether or not Norway should

be investing public funds (Statoil) in ´dirty oil´. As Prentice

relayed it, the public sentiment in Norway shocked him and has

heightened his awareness of the negative consequences to Canada´s

historically ´green´ standing on the world stage. Calling himself

"conservationist-minded", Prentice said he would step in and

regulate the sands if Canada´s image in the world gets further

tarnished by negative coverage. Although he never mentioned

Natural Resources Minister Raitt by name (perhaps, an indication of

the rumored tensions between the two Ministries), Prentice did say

that he felt that Government of Canada´s reaction to the dirty oil

label was ´´too slow" and failed to grasp the magnitude of the

situation. As the Minister representing Alberta and one of the

most senior Ministers in the Cabinet, Prentice made clear that he

was constantly monitoring the situation. He noted that if industry

did not take voluntary measures and if the provincial government

did not set more stringent regulations, he would step in and press

federal environmental legislation. In response to the

Ambassador´s inquiry about a possible moratorium on further

expansion in the oil sands, Prentice didn´t think it was necessary

at this time and felt growth to the 3-4 m/b/d was sustainable. He

agreed that the province should be looking at cumulative

environmental impacts and addressing long-term sustainability

concerns. At the end of the day, Prentice wants Canada to be

billed as the most environmentally-conscious energy superpower.

4) As the topic turned to climate change, Minister Prentice

highlighted a number of concerns that he was interested in

discussing further, preferably with Senator Kerry prior to the

passage of legislation in the Senate. These issues include: the

need for an integrated carbon market, necessitated by the

integrated nature of our economies and energy markets; a harmonized

approach to a low-carbon fuel standard; further discussion of

renewable portfolio standards; an assessment of the impact/nature

of border adjustment measures; and a general increase in

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understanding to avoid inadvertent/unintended consequences of U.S.

legislation on Canada. The Ambassador offered to assist in setting

up a conversation with Senator Kerry, as well as exploring the

possibility of initiating a dialogue on a harmonized continental

carbon market.

5) The last major topic of discussion was a mutual interest in

the protection of and long-term health of the Great Lakes. Both

parties expressed a desire to work collaboratively on such efforts.

Overall, the lunch was a success and laid a number of markers for

further cooperation. Minister Prentice and Ambassador Jacobson

will be meeting again for dinner on November 9, building further on

their relationship. End Cable.


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