Canada to miss 2020 climate target
Nation on pace to miss target by 50 per cent
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 06:00 am
Canada will fall far short of its 2020 climate change goals, reports one of Canada’s top environmental think tanks, but could still meet it if provinces like Alberta step up their efforts.
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy released a report Wednesday on the state of climate progress in Canada.
The round-table is a federally appointed and backed think-tank that has given Canada independent advice on sustainable development for about 20 years.
The Conservative government plans to shut the group down this year as part of its cost-cutting measures.
The report, which had been requested by federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, looks at how close Canada is to meeting its 2020 climate change reduction targets.
Not very, the group reports. Even if all current and proposed measures are implemented, Canada would still be at least 109 megatonnes, or about 50 per cent, short of its goal by 2020.
“Our message is clear,” writes round-table president David McLaughlin. “We need to move beyond current approaches and have a truly pan-Canadian dialogue on how to do this better. If not, Canada’s 2020 target will remain a hope, not a reality.”
Canada has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas levels by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 under the Copenhagen Accord.
The report models Canada’s future emission levels and how current and proposed federal and provincial policies would reduce them.
The group said if no one did anything Canada would overshoot its 2020 target by about 221 megatonnes — equivalent to about 52 coal-fired power plants running year-round, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
While federal and provincial policies would cut that gap by more than half, the report found that, when combined with economic growth, they would not be enough to close it before 2020.
The report found that Canada could still meet its 2020 goal if it takes every step available to it.
Those steps would be costly. With just eight years remaining, low-cost measures won’t work fast enough, the group said. About 75 per cent of the steps necessary to reach the goal would be medium-to-high cost, between $50 and $150 a tonne.
About half of Canada’s reductions would have to come from carbon-capture and storage. The rest would come from energy efficiency, fuel switching and other steps.
The oil and gas sector would be vital in closing this gap, the report found, as it could cover about half of the gap for less than $100 a tonne. It says more cost-effective emission reductions are available in Alberta than in any other region.
Alberta needs to follow Ontario’s lead and phase out coal-fired electricity, said Rob Powell, the St. Albert spokesperson for the World Wildlife Fund, replacing it with its vast solar, wind, geothermal and gas resources.
A Canadian energy strategy would help Alberta make this shift, he continued. “No one expects that Alberta is going to do this alone.”
Alberta is committed to doing its fair share to help Canada meet its 2020 goals, said Alberta Environment spokesperson Mark Cooper, and Environment Minister Diana McQueen has asked her department to find new ways to reduce the province’s emissions.
The minister recognizes that these reductions are important for the environment and Alberta’s place in the world as a responsible energy producer, Cooper said. “If we want to ensure we can stay on track and meet this commitment, we need to look at other measures.”
This isn’t a terribly complicated problem to solve, Powell said. “It’s just a question of whether we have the political will to do it.”
The report is available at nrtee-trnee.ca.