03/29/2016 04:59 EDT | Updated 03/30/2017 05:12 EDT

Catherine McKenna Won't Say If Canada Can Hit Climate Targets And Develop Oilsands

The government has come under increased pressure from environmentalists

MONTREAL — Canada's environment minister wouldn't say on Tuesday how her government plans to meet its climate change commitments and also green-light new pipeline projects.

Catherine McKenna told reporters after a luncheon speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations that Canada needs to de-carbonize its economy but stressed it won't happen overnight.

"We have made a lot of investments in green technology and clean technology and that's the direction of our government," she said. "But it's clear we also need jobs."

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Wedneday, Feb.3, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

Canada has come under increased pressure from environmentalists to explain how the country can continue to develop Alberta's oilsands and also meet ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets.

The country's energy industry is forecasting an expansion of the oilsands to meet growing world demand.

TransCanada wants to meet part of that demand and its Energy East Pipeline proposal would see 1.1 million barrels of oil a day move from Alberta and Saskatchewan to New Brunswick.

Climate research suggests, however, that most of Canada's oilsands need to stay in the ground if world temperature increases are to remain below two degrees Celsius.

Ambitious targets

Canada's current climate goals are to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 when compared with 2005 levels.

"Look, we need to grow our economy as well," she said when asked whether Canada can simultaneously reduce emissions and build pipelines. "You can't overnight say there is going to be no development (in the oil sector). But we're moving in this direction and I think our budget is a very clear step towards that."

She said her government is pledging $5 billion over five years to build "green infrastructure" across the country, such as wastewater treatment facilities.

McKenna added the recently tabled federal budget also includes $1 billion over four years for investments in green technology.

"We are going to be in a period of transition but we are moving in that direction," McKenna said.


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