Despite making progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Canada is not on track to achieve the federal government’s 2020 target of 17 per cent below 2005 levels, concludes a new report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.
“Canada will not achieve its 2020 GHG emission reductions target unless significant new, additional measures are taken. More will have to be done. No other conclusion is possible,” states the NRT report, Reality Check: The State of Climate Progress in Canada.
It is the group’s last report as the Round Table was eliminated in this year’s federal budget.
Combining all existing and proposed federal, provincial and territorial climate policies and actions would lead to a reduction of 104 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020, which represents almost 50 per cent of the required emission reductions to meet Canada’s target of 607 megatonnes of CO2e in 2020, leaving an emissions gap of 117 megatonnes of CO2e.
On an absolute basis, the majority of emissions (58 per cent) originate from just two provinces -- Alberta and Ontario. Alberta has the highest number of GHG emissions because it is the largest energy producer in the country and Ontario because of its population size, energy consumption and sizeable transportation emissions.
In 2009, stationary combustion energy sources represented 56 per cent of Alberta’s emissions. Within that, electricity and heat generation accounted for 48 megatonnes of CO2e, fossil fuel production and refining emitted 36 megatonnes of CO2e, and mining and oil and gas extraction emitted 23 megatonnes.
The report found that provincial policies are driving the largest portion of emission reductions to date -- 75 per cent of all emission reductions by 2020 -- although the federal portion should rise to approximately a third by 2030. However, while provinces are making progress toward achieving their own targets, nearly all will need to introduce additional measures to meet them, it says. Only Nova Scotia, and possibly Saskatchewan, are forecasted to achieve their targets.
In 2009, emissions in Alberta were 234 megatonnes CO2e, a 37 per cent increase since 1990. The province is targeting emissions that are 50 megatonnes below business as usual by 2020 and 200 megatonnes by 2050. The technology fund administered by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation will receive about $1.8 billion between 2011 and 2020 from large-scale emitters who contribute to the fund. This could lead to up to an additional six megatonnes of CO2e reductions in 2020, the report says. Existing and proposed policies are expected to close 41 per cent of the gap to the province’s 2020 target.
If all provinces and territories achieved their own 2020 targets, federal policies would need only to achieve about an additional 41 megatonnes CO2e of emission reductions to reach the national CO2 target, says the report. However, it points out that no formal federal/provincial burden-sharing protocol on GHG emission reductions has ever been negotiated. This helps to explain why Canada has difficulty assessing progress toward individual targets and continues to have a 2020 gap, says the report.
The NRT undertook the report last year at the request of the federal minister of the environment to inform the government’s regulatory approach to reducing emissions. The organization’s research is based on original modelling using Environment Canada’s data as a principal source, as well as extensive consultations with the provinces and territories, academic and public policy experts.
The report emphasizes the need for a concerted national climate change policy if a national target is to be met and suggests that the country has yet to implement effective policies to address some large sources of emissions, and that all this means progress has been and will remain difficult and uneven across the country.
According to David McLaughlin, NRT president and chief executive officer, time is short on taking steps to bring about the necessary emission reduction and that as time goes on, the more difficult and expensive it will be for Canada to meets its objectives. “Our analysis could not be clearer: Canada cannot cherry-pick its way to 2020,” he said. “This will require a more engaged and integrated climate change policy approach at the pan-Canadian level than what we have seen to date.”
In the report the NRT notes that while the target is not yet out of reach, the cost of additional policies to close the gap will be higher on average than policies pursued to date. The report shows that while almost half the emission reductions to date from existing and proposed measures have been in the low-cost range of $50 per tonne and under, achieving Canada’s 2020 target in the most cost-effective way will require an increasing share of emission reductions to come from medium and high cost measures of up to $150 per tonne.
For Canada to achieve targets cost-effectively, the Round Table estimates that most emission reductions will have to come from the oil and gas sector, followed by manufacturing, electricity generation and transportation. Also, emission reductions from Alberta will need to account for more than half of all future reductions to meet the 2020 target, followed by Ontario and British Columbia.
Reality Check recommends that advances in future Canadian climate policy meet three tests: that they are collaborative, coherent, and considered -- collaborative across governments by meeting regularly and specifically on climate policy; coherent by acting together in a co-ordinated way to reinforce each other’s policies and determine who is best positioned to act in one area over another; and considered by undertaking regular progress reports and assessments of how well Canada is meeting targets and forecasting to help consider future actions.
The NRT offered nine recommendations including complementing the federal sector-by-sector regulatory approach with base-level carbon pricing; announcing a detailed plan as to which sectors will be regulated and when; using equivalency agreements with provinces for flexibility; and regular independent GHG progress forecasts.
Bob Slater, vice-chair of the NRT, called on all governments and policy makers to read and consider the Round Table’s advice to move ahead. “Canada will not make the progress it needs without this frank assessment, nor will Canada achieve its climate goals without considering a better way to unify governments in a more co-ordinated approach with shared understanding that all must contribute,” he said.