August 9, 2012, Washington, D.C. — Canada is halfway to achieving its target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 607mn metric tonnes in 2020, the country's environment agency said today.
Environment Canada based its outlook on a downward revision to projected emissions for 2020, to 720mn mt from last year's estimate of 850mn mt. The agency also cut its reported emissions for 2010 from 710mn mt to 692mn mt. Canada is targeting a reduction of 17pc from 2005 levels by 2020.
Much of the progress in the report appears to come not from actions at the federal level, but an updated baseline of emissions and aggressive actions from several of Canada's provinces.
Canada's Conservative federal government has been pursuing a sector-by-sector approach to developing climate regulations. But vehicle emissions rules, copied from similar US regulations, are the only major effort in place so far. Environment minister Peter Kent said that recent talks between the government and oil and gas companies had produced principles that will be used as federal GHG regulations are negotiated.
Kent said the oil and gas rules, which would be published in draft form next year, will consist of performance standards rather than an overall sector cap on emissions. The federal government is also due to finalize regulations on coal-fired power plants in the coming weeks after having missed previous targets.
Kent suggested the oil and gas sector rules could be similar to the “aspirational” carbon-intensity reduction goal that companies working in the Canadian oil sands have accepted.
While it has taken the federal government some time to implement GHG reduction plans, provincial activity is more advanced.
Ontario has moved to shutter its coal-fired power plants. Quebec will enact an aggressive economy-wide cap-and-trade program next year in partnership with California, and British Columbia has one of the highest carbon taxes in the world. Alberta is reviewing its emissions-intensity program on heavy industry and has invested with other provinces in carbon capture and sequestration.
“After six years in power, the federal government's policies still leave a huge gap between where Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are headed and the government's promise to reduce climate pollution,” P.J. Partington, a policy analyst at the Pembina Institute, said. “Continuing to rely solely on sector-by-sector regulations will be too slow and too inflexible to meaningfully close that gap in the next eight years.”
This year is also the first that Environment Canada sought to account for land-use related emissions and sequestration, which it estimated would sequester 25mn mt of CO2 in 2020, getting the country closer to its target.
The agency estimated little change in emissions from most of Canada's economic sectors over the next eight years, with small fluctuations keeping them within 5mn mt of current emissions levels. But increased production from the oil sands will result in emissions of 104mn mt in 2020, a 56mn mt increase from 2010. Conventional oil production emissions are estimated to drop by 2mn by 2020, while other oil and gas-related emissions will also fall.
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