VANCOUVER - Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says he would place a price on carbon as part of his government's commitment to environmental leadership, but he steered clear of calling for a tax, at least for now.

Dion told a forum for emerging environmental leaders Friday morning that it's the government's job to manage the economy and environment responsibly.

The Liberal leader acknowledged that the concept of pricing carbon is still a work in progress for his party and the end result could be either a cap-and-trade system or a tax.

He praised the B.C. Liberal government for its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in part by announcing a graduated carbon tax in last month's provincial budget.

But Dion said provincial governments are going their own way on the issue because of a lack of federal leadership and as a result, the country is ending up with piecemeal legislation.

"In Europe, we have leadership and all the countries are coming together with one big carbon market,'' he told a news conference. "In Canada, we have no leadership.'''

The 25-member European Union, which represents nearly half-a-billion people, has a carbon tax of US$33 a ton for 2008-2012, according to the New York-based Carbon Tax Center.

"Who will provide this leadership in partnership with the provinces?'' Dion asked.

Federal Environment Minister John Baird, however, asked where Dion's leadership on the issue was when he had the same cabinet portfolio.

"Now they have us believe . . . they were just about ready to do it,'' said said in an interview. "It's just not credible. The facts just don't suggest that.

"He sat in cabinet for 10 years and nothing happened,'' Baird said. "Greenhouse gases skyrocketed.

Baird said the Conservatives will continue with regulations targeting big polluters to control carbon emissions rather than taxes.

Further, he said, the differing approaches of provincial governments are not at odds with legislation coming out of Ottawa.

"The environment's a shared responsibility,'' he said. "British Columbia came forward with their budget with respect to a carbon tax. We're coming with our plan with respect to industrial regulation. We're both beginning to put a price on carbon.''


Dion also promised that as prime minister, he would give incentives to increase clean, renewable power in a push to provide at least 10 per cent of Canada's total electricity output as early as 2015.

He told the crowd he's disappointed that Canada has become an environmental laggard under the leadership of the Conservative government.

Sweden introduced a carbon tax in 1991 and other European countries -- Finland, Norway, the Netherlands -- followed suit.

"Ironically, the Kyoto Accords halted further enactment by individual countries, but the recent upsurge of climate concern has brought a resurgence of interest in taxing carbon,'' the Carbon Tax Center's website says.

The centre says voters in Boulder, Col. passed a carbon tax referendum in 2006.

While Boulder's tax equates to just US$7 per tonne and applies only to electricity, the centre says it nonetheless establishes an important precedent: the first climate-protecting tax ever levied in the United States.

Japan has mandated a "household energy tax'' equivalent to US$21 per tonne of carbon.