Monday, May 18, 2015

Canadian Conservatives New Emissions Reduction Pledges

On Friday May 15th the Canadian government announced that it was setting a greenhouse gas emissions target that is 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. While this is important as we head towards UN climate talks at the end of this year in Paris, many are wondering if this is just another election year lie. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's ruling Conservative government has already admitted that they cannot meet the much less ambitious target of 17 percent reductions which they set back in Copenhagen 6 years ago.

Environment Canada has indicated that in the absence of aggressive new measures Harper's Conservatives will miss their 2009 GHG reduction targets by a wide margin. Even the government itself has been forced to concede that they will not meet the17 percent emissions reductions targets by 2020. Given the Conservatives stalwart support for the expansion of the tar sands it is hard to image how they will be able to almost double their GHG reduction performance to arrive at the 30 percent figure they have now promised.

Canada has not succeeded in reducing its total emissions in the last 8 years so the most recent pledge should be met with considerable skepticism. In 2013 Canada's emissions totaled 726 megatons which is roughly the same as the 731 metric megatons registered in 2005.

This announcement comes in the wake of an NDP election win in Alberta, home of Canada's oil industry. The Conservative's may be trying to preempt regulations from the newly elected provincial government.

The new emissions reduction pledge may also be an attempt by the Harper government to at least pretend that it is living up to its promise to follow US climate mitigation efforts. However, even their newest commitments do not match the Obama administration's pledge to reduce emissions by up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The ruling Conservatives said that they will introduce methane regulations in the fossil fuel industry, and gas fired electricity generators in an attempt to harmonize with US policy. However, the government completely omitted to mention the tar sands, which are the elephant in the room. The tars sands are the fastest growing source of GHGs and the dirtiest of Canada's fossil fuel resources.

To meet the 30 percent emissions reduction target the government will need to cut emissions by 515 metric megatons by 2030. Even with new regulatory measures announced for the oil and gas sector it will be difficult for Canada to meet this latest round of promises without abandoning its deadly embrace of the tar sands. The Harper government has made its intentions clear, even though Canada could get all of its energy needs from renewables, they have doubled down on the tar sands.

"These targets are a nice gesture, but for now that’s all they are, because the numbers here simply don’t add up," Canadian spokesman for Cameron Fenton said. "Scientists have told us over and over that averting climate disaster means leaving virtually all tar sands in the ground; and until our government starts taking real steps to achieve that, these announcements are little more than pie-in-the-sky."

The forthcoming federal election in October will be an opportunity for Canadians to decide which side of the climate fence they are on.

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