NEW YORK, N.Y. – Technological change will prove to be the key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a blue-chip audience on Thursday.
Simply imposing emissions targets or trying to cap economic growth to reduce emissions isn’t going to work, Harper said during a question-and-answer session at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
“I am convinced that, over time, we are not going to effectively tackle emissions unless we develop the lower-emissions technology in energy and other sectors,” he said.
“That is the thing that will allow us to square economic growth with emissions reduction and environmental protection. I’m convinced if we cannot square those, we are not going to make progress globally.”
Any realistic international agreement to limit emissions has to cover everyone, not just the developed world, he added.
“We need a mandatory, international protocol that includes all significant emitters and if we do not get that we will not be able to control global emissions.”
Over the course of the hour-long session, a relaxed-looking Harper discussed climate change, the Keystone XL pipeline and Alberta’s oilsands, as well as medicare, border issues, the Middle East and the perils that bedevil the global economy.
He waved off the concerns of environmental critics as he pitched the TransCanada pipeline project as a good thing for the United States that would, if approved, create thousands of jobs and reduce American reliance on offshore oil.
“One needs to put this is a global perspective,” Harper said. “Less than one tenth of one per cent of global emissions are in the oilsands. it’s almost nothing globally.”
It will, however, play a major role in Canada’s own emissions-reduction targets, he conceded.
Harper’s pitch for Keystone XL, which would carry bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast, included a warning.
“The only real, immediate environmental issue here is, do we want to increase the flow of oil from Canada via pipeline or via rail? If you don’t do the pipeline, more and more is going to be coming in via rail, which is far more environmentally challenging.”
The Obama administration is mulling over whether to approve the project; Harper refused to speculate on which way the White House might lean.
He did, however, put in a plug: “I think all the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of approval of this.”