Canada will 'completely' miss 2020 emissions-reduction pledge
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, June 2, 2014 3:43PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 2, 2014 9:16PM EDT
Canada is going to “completely” miss the emissions-reductions goal it signed on to five years ago, the opposition charged Monday, the day U.S. President Barack Obama set ambitious emissions targets for power plants south of the border.
“President Obama has taken meaningful action with a comprehensive plan that will allow the United States to meet its Copenhagen targets by 2020,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said during question period. “Our nation with the same target chosen by this prime minister is going to completely, like 100 per cent, miss the Copenhagen target.”
Back in Jan. 2010, Canada signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, which calls on the world’s major greenhouse gas emitters to reduce emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.
Last year, an Environment Canada report indicated that Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 will be 734 megatonnes (Mt), 128 Mt lower than “if no action were taken to reduce GHGs since 2005.”
While that marks a reduction in emissions, that is higher than the 612 Mt target that Canada should be reaching for under the Copenhagen Accord.
“When will we see a comprehensive, economy-wide plan that actually reaches the Copenhagen target?” May asked as question period wound down on Monday afternoon.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper replied that his government is ahead of Obama by two years on regulations for the electricity sector, saying they “will reduce our emissions in that sector by 46 per cent by 2030.”
Under Obama’s plan, announced Monday, carbon emissions would be reduced by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
“If the member’s so impressed by the actions of the Obama administration, I’m sure she’s also impressed by the actions of this government,” Harper said.
The war of words on Parliament Hill began after Obama introduced his plan to slash carbon emissions from power plants.
Experts charged that although Canada did introduce emissions-reduction guidelines for the electricity sector, they are not as strong as those proposed by Obama, as the government contends.
The Harper government has also failed to introduce its long-awaited regulations for the oil and gas industry, they said.
“Over the past few years while the Obama administration has been putting policies in place to actually achieve that (Copenhagen) target, Canada really hasn’t been,” Simon Donner, an associate professor of climate science at the University of British Columbia, told CTV’s Power Play.
Donner noted that in addition to the electricity sector regulations, Canada has passed stricter fuel efficiency requirements for vehicles, largely to stay in line with U.S. regulations.
“What’s missing is oil and gas,” Donner said. “That is the biggest source of growing emissions in Canada. Right now it is actually the largest source of emissions in Canada.
On Monday, the official Opposition demanded to know when the federal government will unveil those long-awaited environmental regulations for the oil and gas sector.
“There was a promise for new rules by the middle of the year for the oil and gas sector, now it is June,” NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said.
“We actually announced the regulation of the sector two years ago,” Harper replied, referring to the electricity sector. “Not only have we already been acting, but under the regulations this government has already brought forward, we will have a 150 per cent larger reduction than those in the United States.”
NDP environment critic Megan Leslie said Aglukkaq recently told the House environment committee that she was unsure when new regulations for the oil and gas sector would be tabled.
“The only thing growing faster than our emissions are the number of climate deniers around the cabinet table,” Leslie said.
Aglukkaq replied that Canada’s electricity sector regulations will come into effect earlier than the newly announced regulations south of the border. Canada has the cleanest electricity sector in the world, she added, with 77 per cent of the electricity supply emitting no greenhouse gases.
Donner said the claim that Canada’s electricity regulations are stronger than what Obama is proposing is “simply not true.”
Canada’s regulations, which were introduced in 2012, only affect newly built power plants, Donner said. Older power plants “are being grandfathered into the new system until the middle or end of the next decade.”
Earlier during question period, Liberal MP Geoff Regan charged that Canada’s “inaction” on climate change will lead to further delays of “key” projects, such as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
“Why is the prime minister unable to protect our interests?” Regan asked. “Where is the action plan for climate change, on Obama’s desk?”
Aglukkaq replied that Canada represents less than two per cent of global emissions, while the U.S. produces nearly 20 per cent.
In the U.S., coal produces twice the greenhouse gas emissions than all emissions produced in Canada, she added.
In her written statement, Aglukkaq addressed the issue of oil and gas regulations, saying that the Harper government “would like to work in concert with the United States on reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the oil and gas sector. The integration of our economies suggests our countries should be taking action together, not alone.”
On the long-delayed decision on the Keystone project, Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said Monday that when factoring in the science and public opinion south of the border, he remains “optimistic” that Obama will give the project the green light.
Canadian oil represents between 32 and 33 per cent of “foreign oil” imported by the U.S., up from about 19 per cent four years ago, he told CTV’s Power Play.
“The issue is how it gets there,” he said. “It’s getting there on rail right now with higher greenhouse gases, higher safety risks and higher costs.”