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Canada reaches carbon pricing agreement with provinces

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced that his government and the majority of the country's provinces have come to an agreement on a national carbon pricing plan.

Mr Trudeau has been working on a national carbon pricing plan with the provinces for months amid worries about the US heading in the opposite direction and how that could put Canadian companies at an economic disadvantage.

Earlier, outgoing US vice president Joe Biden urged Canadian leaders to continue to treat efforts to combat climate change urgently despite the incoming administration of Donald Trump.

Mr Trudeau called the framework agreement on a carbon tax historic, but Canada's 10 provincial leaders were not unanimous in agreeing to the carbon tax.

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall has refused to agree to the tax, Manitoba's leader said he has not signed on yet because he wants more money for health care, and British Columbia premier Christy Clark baulked at first before reaching a compromise.

Mr Trudeau hopes to impose a national carbon tax that would rise to 50 Canadian dollars (£30) a ton by 2022.

Under a compromise deal, the carbon price would pause at British Columbia's existing 30 Canadian dollars (£18) level in 2020, when an independent expert panel will look at how the plan is evolving.

"The new Trump administration, most assuredly, will not be implementing a carbon tax," Mr Wall told reporters. "We compete with the Americans in our province for drilling rigs. Our farmers compete with their farmers. Competitiveness for Canadians matters especially at a time when our energy sector is reeling."

Mr Biden told Mr Trudeau and Canada's provincial premiers that whatever uncertainty exists surrounding Mr Trump's policies, he is confident America will continue to make progress on a low-carbon future, because many of the trends are market driven and have already taken hold and because states and cities are taking action.

Mr Trump has called global warming a "hoax" and says he plans to abandon the US commitment to reduce carbon emissions as part of the international agreement signed last year in Paris.

"I understand that many of you are concerned about what the new administration will do," Mr Biden said as he sat around a table with Mr Trudeau, provincial premiers and aboriginal leaders gathered for a meeting on climate change in Ottawa.

"Whatever uncertainty exists around the near-term policy choices of the next president, I am absolutely confident the United States will continue making progress in its path to a low-carbon future."

Mr Biden said he was excited to meet provincial leaders because sometimes states lead the way. He also pointed to companies like Google which he said announced a new goal to power itself with 100% renewable energy starting next year.

"Regardless of whether the next administration is as aggressive as we have been, there's no way to turn back - I'm not suggesting they intend to - but there's no way to turn back this tide that has begun to roll," Mr Biden said.

"The question is time. Time is of the essence. There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful, but no reason to be anything other than feeling an overwhelming sense of urgency."

AP

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