New Pembina analysis shows Canada falling behind the U.S. on regulating climate pollution

Dec. 2, 2010

OTTAWA — Detailed analysis released today by the Pembina Institute examines the structure and significance of the Obama Administration's plans to start regulating industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions next month. Despite the Government of Canada's stated intent to harmonize its climate change policies with the U.S., there are currently no proposed Canadian federal regulations to limit GHGs from key industry sectors like the oilsands.

"If Canada matched the U.S. approach, all new oilsands facilities that hadn't begun construction by January 2011  would be subject to federal greenhouse gas regulations," noted P.J. Partington, lead author of Pembina's analysis. "The regulatory route that the U.S. is following isn't perfect, but there is no excuse for Stephen Harper's government to continue failing to regulate industrial emissions four years after it first promised to do so."

Although new legislation to cap GHG emissions has stalled in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can use the existing Clean Air Act to regulate these emissions:

  • Starting Jan. 2, the EPA will require new and expanded large industrial facilities to obtain permits that will set GHG limits, under a program called "Prevention of Significant Deterioration."
  • The EPA could also regulate GHG emissions from all large industrial facilities under a separate program called "New Source Performance Standards," possibly using a "cap-and-trade" system, although it has not yet outlined plans to do so.

"Canada needs to implement a comprehensive plan to achieve science-based greenhouse gas reductions, and economic analysis shows that we could do so in advance of the U.S. while continuing to enjoy solid economic growth," said Matthew Bramley, director of Pembina's Climate Change Program. "But the opposite is happening — we're falling behind the U.S."

The EPA's moves to regulate GHGs are subject to numerous legal challenges, but the Obama Administration is confident that the courts will reject legal arguments for suspending the regulations that start in January. The Pembina Institute believes those challenges only strengthen the case for Canada to implement its own policies.

More than 50 per cent of Canada's GHG emissions come from industrial facilities. Without new government policies, half of the increase in Canada's industrial GHG emissions between 2010 and 2020 will come from the expansion of Alberta's oilsands operations, according to Environment Canada.

The Government of Canada has had the legal authority to regulate GHG emissions since November 2005. In June 2010, then environment minister Jim Prentice outlined a proposal to regulate GHGs from new and end-of-life coal-fired power plants, starting in 2015. The government plans to publish the draft regulations for coal plants in the spring, but has no current proposal to regulate any other industry sector. 


Download: "Tackling emissions from industry: Federal regulation of industrial greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and the implications for Canada"


Matthew Bramley (English / français)
Director, Climate Change, Pembina Institute
Cell: 819-210-6115
Phone: 613-216-1976 ext. 26

Julia Kilpatrick (English / français)
Media Manager, Pembina Institute
Cell: 613-265-5579
Phone: 613-216-1976 ext. 30


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