In a year-end interview with CBC News, Harper insisted that Canada can't impose new rules on its oil and gas sector unless the United States does too.
But he added that he is actively proposing to the U.S. and to Mexico that they work with Canada to cut emissions "on a continental basis," and the Alberta model is one that could work for all three countries.
"The Province of Alberta itself already has a (model); it's one of the few GHG regulatory environments in the country...." Harper said. "I think it's a model on which you could, on which you could go broader."
In Alberta, major emitters must reduce the intensity of their emissions. If they can't do this by improving their industrial performance, they can buy offset credits or they can pay into a technology fund — $15 per tonne of emissions. That fund, in turn, makes investments in the private sector aimed at developing emissions-reducing technology.
Last week, Harper raised eyebrows by saying any attempt by Canada to go it alone and regulate emissions in the oil and gas sector would be "crazy economic policy."
His critics chided him for not attempting to get the United States on side.
But in the interview on Wednesday, Harper said that in fact he was trying to get both the United States and Mexico to act in concert with Canada.
Many analysts, and even Environment Canada, have pointed out that Canada is not close to being on track to meeting its international commitments to significantly reduce emissions by 2020.
In the interview, Harper sidestepped a question about whether he believed Canada would meet its targets.
"We've got more work to do but our emissions are falling."
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