Environment Minister Jim Prentice told a parliamentary committee on Thursday his government plans to impose “absolute caps” on carbon emissions and develop a mechanism allowing companies to buy credits from others whose emissions fall under the limits. “We are talking about a cap-and-trade system,” Prentice told the committee, “a continental cap-and-trade system that involves absolute emission reductions.” The move towards “absolute reductions” is a significant departure from the Conservatives’ past insistence on intensity-based targets. Under the previous proposal, emissions would have been allowed to rise at the same rate as overall economic output. (For example, an oil company’s emissions limits could be on a per-barrel basis, meaning the more barrels they produce, the more greenhouse gases they’re allowed to emit.) The change of heart is seemingly motivated by the Obama administration’s desire to put in place a cap and trade system with which intensity-based targets would be incompatible.
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