Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canadian Environment Minister Announces 20% Mandatory Cut in Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2020

The government plan also targets a 50% decrease in industrial air pollutants by 2015

[From Green Car Congres:]

John Baird, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, today unveiled Turning the Corner: An Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution, which imposes greenhouse gas and toxic air pollution reduction targets on industry.

The government’s goal is an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 150 megatonnes by 2020—about a 20% cut from current levels and an approximately 300 megatonnes reduction from projected 2020 levels—and cutting air pollution from industry in half by 2015.

In addition to measures to reduce air emissions from industry, the government has committed to addressing emissions from transportation by regulating—for the first time in Canada—the fuel efficiency of cars and light duty trucks, beginning with the 2011 model year. (Earlier GCC post.)

"Canada needs to do a U-Turn, because we are going in the wrong direction... We are serving notice that beginning today, industry will need to make real reductions."
—Minister Baird

Industry produces about half of Canada’s greenhouse gas and air pollution. Under the new plan, it will account for about 40% of the reductions.

Cuts will be based on emissions intensity—allowing industries to increase their greenhouse gas outputs as they increase production. Companies will be able to choose the most cost-effective way to meet their targets from a range of options: in-house reductions, contributions to a capped technology fund, domestic emissions trading and offsets and access to the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. Companies that have already reduced their greenhouse gas emissions prior to 2006 will be rewarded with a limited one-time credit for early action.

The flexibility in mechanism provides some breathing room for oil sands companies, who, with the growth in the oil sands industry, are contributing heavily to the growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

Baird also announced a ban on energy-inefficient incandescent bulbs. Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said the ban will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than six million tons a year, saving homeowners about $54 annually in electricity costs. [Australia also recently banned incandescent bulbs and a bill in the California legislature would have the Golden State due the same by 2012. The bill is humorously titled the "How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act!"]

The new program does not bring Canada into compliance with its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol—a reduction of emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Canada’s emissions are currently 30% above 1990 levels, and the new goal puts Canada 11% above its Kyoto targets. Under the new plan, Canada will meet its Kyoto targets in 2025, 13 years late.

The plan also targets industrial air pollutants that contribute to smog, acid rain and other maladies. According to the Globe and Mail:
"The new plan also takes aim at air pollution, setting fixed caps on the emission of four gases that cause smog and acid rain. And it promises to regulate products and commercial activities that reduce the quality of indoor air."
It is very relieving to see this real change of direction for the Harper Government. One of the first things Harper's Conservative Party ("Torie") government did upon taking power in 2006 was slash budgets for environmental programs, including those aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions (see previous post). Harper has also been a proponent of expanded oil sands development, the major contributor to rising greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Now it seems, after years of allowing emissions to climb, Harper and his Environment Minister, Baird, seem ready to start reversing course and charting a path to reduced emissions. Sadly, it means our neighbor to the north will no longer be able to hit their Kyoto targets - any hope of hitting the 6% reduction below 1990 levels by 2012 has long since passed - and will be roughly 13 years behind in emissions reductions. Still they look to be moving ahead of the United States; let's hope we follow suite soon!

The GCC post above doesn't have a lot of details on the emissions reduction plan, and more can be found in the Globe and Mail article here. While the government plan sets the goal of an absolute emissions reduction of 20% by 2020, the mandatory reduction targets set on industry are based on carbon intensity, not absolute emissions, meaning the policy is not guaranteed to achieve absolute reductions of 20%. As the Globe and Mail writes:
It relies on the intensity-based targets that allow industries to increase their greenhouse gas outputs as they increase production. Those types on controls have been repeatedly panned by environmental experts who have demanded absolute reductions.
Additionally, it appears that while industry is responsible for roughly half of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions (see image above), and is the fastest growing sector (due to oil sands development), the plan only makes industry responsible for about 40% of the emissions reductions. The rest will come from better fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks [see previous GCC post], other federal initiatives such as the program that will help Canadians retrofit their homes, and provincial efforts to increase energy efficiency.

According to the Globe and Mail, of the 150 megatonne emissions reduction target:
industry is expected to account for 60 megatonnes, fuel efficiency for cars and trucks is expected to account for 40 megatonnes, improvements in home fuel efficiency and other measures for 10 megatonnes, and the provinces will be responsible for eliminating the final 40 megatonnes.
Good to see a real plan to cut emissions though. I'm sure it could probably be stronger, but considering how Harper began his term, I'm just excited to see this change of direction for Canada.


Resources:

  • Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions (Environment Canada)

  • Ottawa to cut emissions 20 per cent by 2020” (Globe and Mail)

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