Canadian emissions continue to climb

Canada has announced that its 1999 output of greenhouse gases was 15% higher than in 1990 but says it can still meet its emission target set under the Kyoto Protocol, which environmentalists say is mission impossible.

Although the level of emissions in 1999 is 4% lower than the previous figure (see related story), there is still a long way to go before Canada meets its agreed 6% reduction in 1990’s greenhouse gas levels by 2008-12. However, the government points out that since 1996, the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of the Canadian economy – a measure of the amount of GHGs emitted per unit of economic activity – has improved significantly, with 1999’s 3% improvement the largest to date. While in 1995, GHG emissions grew by 2.6% for economic growth of 3.0%, in 1999 GHG emissions grew by 1.4% while the economy grew by 4.5%. If economic growth had not been so marked, emissions reductions would have been seen, the government says.

Total emissions of all GHGs in 1999 were 699 megatonnes measured in units of CO2 equivalent, with factors affecting emission growth in recent years including increases in coal consumption for electricity and steam generation, growth in fossil fuel production (largely for export), and increases in Canadian transportation energy consumption. It is estimated that in 1999, over 45 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent released was attributable to the export of fossil fuels, with natural gas contributing twice that of crude oil, the environment ministry says.

Overall, releases from electricity and heat generation increased by more than 24%, fossil fuel industries’ emissions grew by 26% and GHGs from transport, driven by increases in trucking activity and the number of private Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and vans on the road, rose by 24%. Emissions from light duty trucks, which include pick-up trucks, SUVs and vans, have increased by 57% since 1990, while emissions from cars have actually decreased 7%. The Canadian vehicle fleet is growing and shifting towards more light duty trucks that, on average, emit 40% more GHGs per kilometre than cars, the ministry says.

Emissions from energy consumption in manufacturing have dropped slightly since 1990, even though the sector grew 32% by 1999. This has occurred primarily as a result of improved energy efficiency within advanced products and services (such as electronic, automotive and aerospace) and other manufacturing industries. Emissions from the production of adipic acid during the manufacture of nylon have dropped considerably since 1996, due to process improvements, which will reduce emissions in the industrial sector by 10 megatonnes.

The government insists that its recently implemented, Action Plan 2000 (see related story and related story will reduce Canada’s GHG emissions by about 65 megatonnes per year until 2012, will take the nation one third of the way to our Kyoto target.

Environmental groups, however, are now beginning to see Kyoto targets as impossible to achieve. “Canada is the only country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development where there is no federal government involvement in urban transport,” said the NGO, Sierra Club of Canada, which is also concerned about fuel production. “The concern we have is the reliance on coal for electrical generation. We clearly are not seeing yet the new technologies of clean coal being spread widely.”

“I’m not sure [Environment Minister] Anderson is being very honest with the public,” commented Greenpeace. “Either he’s been misinformed or he is misinforming us. They’ve been saying it will get better since 1992 and in fact our emissions are growing. I don’t see anything Canada has put on the table which is going to change that.”

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