Canada announces massive funding for renewable energy and to curb greenhouse gases

In a pledge to put Canada back on the path to Kyoto commitments on greenhouse gas emissions, the government has announced spending of CA$1.1 billion (US$ 732 million), enabling the nation to “become a world leader in sustainable development”.

The government says that the investment will cut emissions of greenhouse gases by about 65 megatonnes per year by concentrating on the route sources of over 90% of emissions: transportation, the industrial and energy sectors, and buildings. It will also invest heavily in scientific research and the adaptation of existing facilities, taking Canada “one-third of the way to its Kyoto target” of cutting emissions by 6% on 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

The plan, Action Plan 2000 on Climate Change, pledging an extra cash injection of CA$ 500 million (US$ 333 million) above monies already allocated to 2001’s federal budget, was announced jointly by Natural Resources Minister, Ralph Goodale, and Environment Minister, David Anderson, on 6 October. It comes exactly one month after government figures revealing that greenhouse gas emissions in 1998 were 19% above the level set under the Kyoto Protocol, (see related story) and just over one month before The Hague’s meeting, where governments will have to detail their strategies on achieving their Kyoto commitments.

The plan, which the Government says will result in more use of renewable energy technologies, cleaner air and savings from improvements in energy efficiency, will not be fully implemented until 2008 and are the result of two years of consultation with all tiers of Canadian government and industrial, academic and NGO experts. The next step, the government says, will be to fine tune the proposals with regional governments and seek partnerships for their implementation.

Among the plan’s main proposals for the transportation sector, Canada’s biggest greenhouse gas contributor, with 25% of emissions are: a tripling of ethanol production from biomass, the development of a refuelling infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicles and consumer education programmes.

For the oil and gas sector, which, the government warns, will rocket to emissions 65% above 1990 levels by 2010, investment in CO2 capture and storage is advocated, as well as technology to find better ways to capture and store energy. Ottawa will also support alternative forms of energy production in overseas markets in order to receive emission credits, as well as investing in the wind and solar sectors.

“By acting now and continuing to invest in innovation and technology, we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, sustain economic and job growth, and increase Canadian competitiveness,” said Goodale.

Commenting on the plan, the Sierra Club of Canada, one of the country’s biggest environmental groups, said that it “applauds the good bits of Action 2000 – the federal government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – but questions how it can succeed without addressing urban public transit.”

“Every city in Canada needs to expand and improve its public transit system if we are going to clean the air and meet our Kyoto target.” Said John Bennett, Director, Atmosphere and Energy, Sierra Club of Canada.

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