New federal climate plan admits minimal action on emissions

Blog - June 3, 2010 - By Matthew Bramley

Yesterday afternoon, Environment Canada very quietly posted on its website the annual Climate Change Plan required by the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. This is an important document because it's the only place where the government provides a full list of its measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and estimates the emission reductions from each measure.

The plan reveals the following:

  • The government now expects Canada's emissions to continue rising every year from 2009 to 2012, even with federal measures in place (p. 34). Six years after taking office, the government will still not Smog over Calgary, Albertahave achieved absolute reductions in Canada's emissions, despite having proclaimed in 2007 that it would be "Turning the Corner" and getting emissions to decline "as early as 2010 and no later than 2012." Smog over Calgary, Alberta
  • The government expects its policies to have reduced annual emissions by just 5 megatonnes (Mt) below the business-as-usual level in 2010, and 10 Mt in 2012 (p. 34). Since Canada's total annual emissions are over 700 Mt, this means that by 2012, the government expects to have reduced Canada's emissions by just 1.4 per cent below business-as-usual.
  • By contrast, in last year's plan (p. 30), the government said it expected its policies to reduce annual emissions by 52 Mt in 2010 and 74 Mt in 2012. Following Environment Minister Jim Prentice's abandonment of the "Turning the Corner" regulations for industry, the government has therefore - in one year - scaled back its level of ambition for action this year (2010) by a factor of ten.
  • After the proposed industry regulations, the second-biggest measure (in terms of projected emission reductions) in previous years' plans was the Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund. The government said that this $1.5 billion fund, which was distributed to provinSmoke stackIndustrial air pollution from smoke stacksces and territories for green initiatives in 2007, would reduce annual emissions by 16 Mt starting in 2008 (2009 plan, p. 28). In this year's plan (p. 28-29), the government has dropped this claim and now quantifies only 0.34 Mt of near-term reductions and a further 3 Mt by 2015. (The federal Environment Commissioner pointed out in 2008 that "Environment Canada cannot monitor or verify the Trust Fund results.")
  •  The main environmental initiatives in the federal economic stimulus package (the Clean Energy Fund of $0.8 billion over five years and the Green Infrastructure Fund, worth $1 billion over five years) "are not expected to result in quantifiable reductions [in emissions] by 2012" (p. 29).

No policies to substantially reduce emissions

Sadly, this report confirms that the Harper government is neither implementing nor planning to implement any policies to substantially reduce Canada's greenhouse gas pollution. In the face of urgent calls for action coming from the world's most authoritative scientific bodies and ambitious policies in some of Canada's peer countries, this shows an astonishing failure to grasp what's at stake.



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