04/17/2015 06:44 EDT | Updated 06/18/2015 05:59 EDT

Leona Aglukkaq Says Letter To Provinces On Emissions Targets Wasn't An Attack

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq takes part in a news conference at Health Canada in Ottawa, Canada on Thursday April 30, 2009, regarding the swine flu outbreak. The number of confirmed swine flu cases in Canada climbed to 34 today with five new confirmations in British Columbia and Quebec's first confirmed case. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

The federal environment minister says her letter to the provinces last week about their climate change efforts should have come as no surprise, and was not intended to point fingers.

Leona Aglukkaq sent the letter one week ago, before a premier's meeting on climate change in Quebec City.

It outlined for each province where they are in meeting their own emission targets and how many are falling short. It also asked the provinces for more details on what they were doing to meet those targets leading up to 2020.

Aglukkaq says this is not the first time she has raised the issue with the provinces, pointing out her first letter was sent last November.

"I sent out a reminder for the premiers meeting because that's what they were going to discuss and I think it's important to have the information from the provinces in terms of what they're dong," Aglukkaq told CBC News Friday in an exclusive interview.

Many provinces didn't react favourably to the letter, calling on the federal government to focus more on its own efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The letter points out the provinces are short of their targets by 109 megatonnes, but Canada overall is short of its international target by seven more megatonnes than that.

​But Agukkaq insists she's not pointing a finger at the provinces, saying some of them have met or exceeded their greenhouse gas emission cuts, such as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

"For them to share how they did it, is important to Canadians. So how do we do that better," she asked.

Division over cap and trade

Aglukkaq was clear she does not agree with Ontario and Quebec's plan for a cap-and-trade system that puts a price on carbon. Not all provinces like that idea either.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says cap and trade is a tax, not an environmental policy.

He would rather see the federal government invest more in projects like it did in the carbon capture project in his province.

"If we are going to find technological solutions to base load electricity in our country and in places like China and India and other places around the world that are still using coal, we need the federal government to be part of that, like they were on our project," Wall said.

The head of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, was also in Canada this week for meetings on greenhouse gas emission targets.

She says she's optimistic Canada will commit to new deeper cuts on emissions, adding Canada has always said it would align with the United States in its climate change goals.

"Well the United States has taken the left lane and has gone far far ahead. So has China," Figueres told CBC News The National. "This is the year for Canada that it also will join the community of nations. That's my invitation. That's why I'm here."

Aglukkaq says Canada continues to work with the United States to align regulations where it makes sense, such as the transportation sector.

And she says all countries want to do the right thing at the Paris climate conference later this year, "but we're not in a track and field meet, and racing to the end."

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