greenhouse gas emissions

I Hate to Break it to You, B.C., But You're Not a Climate Leader

This is a guest post by Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with the Sierra Club B.C.

If you live in British Columbia you might think that our province is a climate champion, because you heard it from our government. Last month, for example, the provincial government sent out a bold press release touting B.C. as a world leader in climate action. The release highlighted B.C.'s carbon tax and the accomplishment of “meeting our 2012 GHG reduction target.”

However, just a few days later, the Canadian government released its latest greenhouse gas emissions data showing that B.C.'s emissions actually increased by 2.4 per cent in 2013 (to 63 million tons of greenhouse gases, from 61.5 in 2012). This is a big deal, because the threat of global warming has reached a point at which we cannot afford our annual emissions to continue to increase.

In March, the monthly global average concentration of carbon dioxide passed 400 parts per million. When the concentration of greenhouse gases was last this high, temperatures were several degrees warmer and sea level many metres higher.

Experts Slow Clap for Canada’s Late and 'Inadequate' Climate Target

Months after most countries revealed national climate targets in the lead up to the December 2015 UN climate summit, Canada has finally announced its contribution to global emissions reductions — and its commitment is getting a failing grade from the climate community.

The NewClimate Institute rated Canada's target as “inadequate.”

In rating Canada ‘inadequate,’ our lowest rating, we note that other governments will have to take a lot more action to make up for the hole left by Canada’s lack of ambition — if warming is to be held to 2˚C,” said Niklas Höhne of the institute.

Canada is promising to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

According to Climate Action International, Canada is unlikely to meet that target, even though it is much weaker than commitments made by other industrial nations.

B.C.’s Prized Carbon Tax: A Primer

B.C.’s carbon tax has been called both elegant and a template for the rest of the world. Because it increases taxes on things we don’t want (emissions), reduces taxes on things we do want (income), is popular with the public and has actually worked to reduce the province’s carbon footprint, it’s been called a win-win-win-win.

So how does it work?

Pretty simply: if you burn fossil fuels (oil, gasoline, natural gas, etc.), you pay the tax. British Columbians see the tax on their heating bills and at the pump when they fill up their cars. But because the system is designed to be revenue neutral, British Columbians also see the benefits of the tax feeding back into the system, benefiting consumers through tax credits and breaks.

Every dollar collected by the government through the tax (approximately $1 billion annually) is funnelled back to the people of B.C.

Alberta's Carbon Levy: A Primer

Carbon Pricing Alberta. Image oilsands emissions by Kris Krug

It may come as a surprise to some that Alberta pioneered carbon pricing — not just in Canada, but for all of North America.

That’s right: the province with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada was the first place on the continent to put “polluter pays” legislation into place almost exactly eight years ago.

Even back in 2007, Alberta was getting pressure over its environmental management, particularly of the oilsands. This may have been in response to that,” Matt Horne, associate B.C. director at the Pembina Institute, told DeSmog Canada.

Over 25,000 March in Quebec Demanding Climate Leadership in Canada

An estimated 25,000 took to the streets of Quebec City Saturday to protest the federal government’s lack of leadership on climate change and unfaltering support for increased production in the Alberta oilsands.

Our message is simple — yes to climate equals no to the tar sands,” Christian Simard, executive direct of Nature Quebec, said. Nature Quebec along with Greenpeace, Equiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation and other eastern Canadian environmental groups organized the demonstration — already being called the largest climate protest in Canada's history.

Demonstrators filled the streets of Quebec City’s historic quarter demanding the nation's premiers be climate leaders and reject proposed pipeline projects like TransCanada’s Energy East and Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain.

We don’t want to see the premiers under the cover of a national energy strategy agreeing to help Alberta expand the tar sands. A national energy strategy needs also to be a climate strategy,” Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence Canada, told DeSmog Canada.

Here’s How Canada Could Have 100% Renewable Electricity by 2035

Canada could become 100 per cent reliant on low-carbon electricity in just 20 years and reduce its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, a new study shows.

The report calls for bold policies to be adopted immediately in order for Canada to transition to a sustainable society.

Twenty years ago Canada was a leader on the climate change file. But today our reputation on this issue is in tatters,” James Meadowcroft, political science professor at Carleton University and one of the report’s authors told DeSmog Canada. “It is time for us to get serious and take vigorous action to move towards a low carbon emission economy.”

The report is a collaboration between 60 Canadian scholars and outlines a 10-point policy framework to achieve dramatic emission reductions. At the top of the list is the need to put a price on carbon which was unanimously recommended by the report’s authors.

Economic Impacts of Energy East on Ontario "Likely Inflated," Report Says

Energy East Pipeline

The economic benefits for Ontario of TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline are “likely inflated” according to a study commissioned by the province’s energy regulator.

The economic impact of the project in Ontario should not be treated as a significant factor when considering the merits of Energy East,” the study states.

The authors of the study, the Mowat Centre, a public policy think tank at the University of Toronto, found the modeling system TransCanada used to predict the economic benefits of the project assumes past and present economic conditions will remain unchanged for the entire operational life of the Energy East project and inflates the project’s indirect benefits on Ontario’s economy.

Due to the uncertainty around many broader policy questions that will materially impact the economics of the project, any estimates of possible economic impacts in Ontario should be treated with a high degree of caution,” the study concludes.

UN Report Lays Out Canada’s Path to 90 Per Cent Emissions Reductions by 2050

Canada can reduce its carbon footprint by 90 per cent, play its part in the fight against climate change and grow its economy at the same time according to a recent report by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 

This is a really important piece of analysis for Canada. It shows that we can cut our carbon pollution dramatically by 2050, making a strong contribution to tackling climate change, while growing our economy by over 200 per cent,” Clare Demerse, a senior policy advisor at Clean Energy Canada says.

By powering transportation, buildings and electricity with largely renewable energy (water-power, wind, solar) and biofuels and applying wide spread use of greenhouse gas (GHG) capturing technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the oil and gas sector the report argues Canada can cut its GHG emissions production by 90 per cent by 2050 based on 2010 levels.

The catch is none of this can happen unless Canada implements policies effectively regulating the production of GHG emissions, something the federal government has so far been unable to do.

Many of the major changes described in the Canadian decarbonization pathway will not occur without strong policy signals, which will require public support and in many cases will be driven by public pressure,” the UN network concludes. 

After Years of Intensive Lobbying, EU to Drop Oilsands’ Dirty Fuel Label

oilsands alex maclean

The European Union will not label fuel from Alberta’s oilsands as highly polluting despite years of efforts to distinguish the crude and other unconventional fuels for their high environmental impacts.

A proposal released Tuesday by the European Commission lifts a requirement forcing refiners to identify when supplying fuel from unconventional sources such as oilsands or oil shale. The commission will lift the requirement even though internal estimates show these fuel sources contain higher carbon emissions than conventional sources.

The dropped requirement within the European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) comes after years of intense lobbying on behalf of the Canadian and Albertan government.

“The Harper government, in collaboration with the major oil companies, unleashed an unprecedented assault on clean fuels legislation in Europe even as they gutted environmental laws at home,” Keith Stewart, energy and climate campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, told DeSmog Canada. 

I think the question Canadians should ask themselves is: Do we want our diplomats to operate as a lobbying arm of Big Oil?” he said.

Stewart also noted the federal government's Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy labelled oil companies as “allies” while environmental and Aboriginal groups were listed as “adversaries.”

“No Overall Vision:” Scathing New Audit from Environment Commissioner Exposes Canada’s Utter Climate Failure

stephen harper, climate change, desmog canada, un climate summit

Canada will almost certainly not meet its international greenhouse gas emission reduction target by 2020 and doesn’t even have a plan showing how the nation might achieve its climate change goals, according to a blistering new report released Tuesday.

Julie Gelfand, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, said a climate change audit found current federal measures will have little effect on emissions by 2020, the year Canada committed under the Copenhagen Accord to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions 17 per cent below 2005 levels.

Gelfand said in her report that the government has introduced regulations in the transportation and electricity generation sectors.

She noted, however, that regulations in the oil and gas sector — where emissions are growing the fastest — are still not in place eight years after the government first indicated it would regulate this area.

There is strong evidence that Canada will not meet its international 2020 greenhouse-gas-emission reduction target,” she said. “The federal government does not have an overall plan that maps out how Canada will achieve this target. Canadians have not been given the details about which regulations will be developed, when, nor what greenhouse gas reductions will be expected.”

“Canadians are being grossly misled if they think that this government has even the remotest intention of ever trying to achieve any greenhouse gas targets, let alone join the realm of civilized nations,” Liberal environment critic John McKay said in response to the audit.

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