Canadian provinces holding the country back from reducing emissions

A lack-lustre response by Canadian provinces to the needs of tackling climate change is causing the country to renege on its international obligations, with Alberta in particular criticised for its unswerving commitment to fossil fuels.

The report, Provincial Government Performance on Climate Change 2001, published by environmental policy think-tank the Pembina Institute, covers five Canadian provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Québec and Saskatchewan, which account for 89% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. All five provinces have produced almost no new climate change policies since 1990, the result of a lack of political will, says the Institute.

“In light of Canada’s intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, the provinces need to take substantive action now to reduce emissions in all areas,” said Dr Matthew Bramley, author of the report, and Director of Climate Change at the Pembina Institute. “That is not yet happening. Instead, provinces like Alberta and Ontario have adopted policies that are driving their emissions higher still.”

The report reveals that Alberta has now overtaken Ontario as Canada’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, despite having a population almost four times smaller. The province’s emissions are predicted to rise to 40% over 1990 levels by 2010, a situation which may not be remedied in the light of a statement by Alberta’s Premier Klein in June this year that “we have energy to burn”, leaving no doubt about the Alberta government’s commitment to the maximum possible expansion of its oil sands, says the Pembina Institute.

The report examines how the five provinces have performed in a number of key policy areas. With regards to transport and land use planning, “there has been little use of meaningful incentives to encourage less greenhouse gas-intensive and more energy efficient … choices”, says the report. Within industry, Alberta achieved the highest approval rating for a voluntary agreement with industry to reduce flaring, and to encourage the use of co-generation facilities. The provinces were particularly poor with regard to the promotion of technology development, and with regard to the enhancement of awareness and understanding of climate change issues, with Ontario consistently obscuring the distinction between climate change and clean air.

Overall, Québec and British Columbia were found to have made significant improvements on results from a similar study last year. However, British Columbia’s achievements are now threatened by the position taken by its new government, which has abandoned the province’s climate change business plan after only one year.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Canada is required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below the 1990 level in the period 2008-2012. However, the country’s emissions actually increased by 15% between 1990 and 1999, and with no additional actions to combat the problem, emissions are projected to rise to 27% above 1990 levels by 2010.

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