04/07/2016 17:41 EDT | Updated 04/08/2017 01:12 EDT

McKenna says climate policy changes can't happen overnight

OTTAWA — For the second time in a week, the federal environment minister has suggested the Liberal government is prepared to tap the brake on its aggressive climate change agenda in the interests of national unity.

Catherine McKenna appeared today in Ottawa at a town hall-style meeting with Gina McCarthy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where the two women sang each other's praises and touted continental environmental co-operation.

McCarthy says bilateral relations have never been better for cross-border climate action, citing the apparent kinship between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Both women worked to downplay contentious issues on climate policy, whether between the two countries or within their own borders.

McKenna says she'll continue talking every day about the merits of pricing carbon, but acknowledged there are differing viewpoints and warned against division and paralysis.

The Liberal minister says the transition away from fossil fuels won't happen overnight and if everyone in the oilpatch lost their jobs, she'd be powerless as an environmental advocate.

McCarthy was careful not to wade into Canada's great pipeline debate, stating her goal is the reduction of carbon emissions — not shutting anything down or keeping fossil fuels in the ground, a statement that might surprise supporters of the rejected Keystone XL pipeline.

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The Canadian Press