BUSINESS

U.S. May Use Keystone To Push Canada Into A Climate Deal

02/26/2015 01:00 EST | Updated 02/26/2015 01:59 EST
Matt Cardy via Getty Images
ENNISKILLEN, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 18: US President Barack Obama (R) talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper following the 'family' group photograph at the G8 venue of Lough Erne on June 18, 2013 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. The two day G8 summit, hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, is being held in Northern Ireland for the first time. Leaders from the G8 nations have gathered to discuss numerous topics with the situation in Syria expected to dominate the talks. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

U.S. officials are hinting that the price of getting approval for the Keystone XL pipeline could be Canada’s agreement to a deal on greenhouse gas emissions.

According to an unnamed U.S. official, Obama administration climate negotiators have told Canadian officials that President Barack Obama may make Canada’s plans to combat emissions one of the factors in determining whether to approve the controversial pipeline.

Canadian and U.S. officials are in talks over what sort of commitments Canada will make at a UN climate conference in Paris this year, Bloomberg reports, and what Canada decides to do could factor into Obama’s decision on the pipeline.

But that claim is being disputed by another unnamed U.S. official, who described it as “patently false.”

The report from Bloomberg news comes the same week as the news service’s billionaire founder, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, penned an editorial calling on Canada to agree to carbon emissions reductions as part of a compromise to get Keystone approved.

And in a speech before the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Thursday, U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman said the two countries would have to fight climate change together by setting targets for greenhouse gas emissions that will benefit the planet and future generations.

Heyman’s speech, coming two days after President Barack Obama vetoed a Congressional bill that would have authorized construction of the pipeline, was a clear hint the Obama administration is unhappy with Canada’s climate change record.

The Bloomberg report cited “a person familiar with the matter” as saying that Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2013 offered to cut greenhouse gas emissions in exchange for Keystone XL approval.

But Harper’s recent statements on climate change policy suggest little appetite for tougher carbon rules. The prime minister said in December it would be “crazy” to toughen regulations on the energy industry in the wake of a collapse in oil prices.

"It would be crazy economic policy to do unilateral penalties on that sector; we're clearly not going to do that," Harper told Parliament.

However, that does leave open the door to a “multilateral” approach, such as an agreement at the UN climate conference.

In his editorial, Bloomberg argued a climate-deal-for-Keystone swap would be a win-win.

Such a deal “would position Canada as a leader on climate change, while also delivering a big economic boost to its economy,” wrote Bloomberg, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on cities and climate change.

“Republicans in Congress could declare economic victory, while Democrats could declare environmental victory. The president could declare both.”

An agreement like this could face opposition not just from the Harper government but also from climate activists, many of whom say they would not end their opposition to Keystone XL in exchange for a climate deal.

Any worthwhile climate deal would stop growth in Canadian oil exports, which would make the pipeline unnecessary, they argue.

With files from The Canadian Press

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