Canadian government lies about its climate policies (Is anyone surprised?)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 Canada cannot achieve its Copenhagen commitment until it takes on the oil and gas industry and compels emission reductions by putting a moratorium on new development, and phasing out the existing industry


by Linton Nightingale
Climate Action, August 3, 2011 

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), responsible for the analysis of governmental climate change policies, published their analytical response last week and in the process highlighted a lack of transparency and reliability of government estimates.

The report, “A Response of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy to its Obligations under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act”, not only dismisses the country’s chances of reaching its proposed emission cuts by 2020, but also its fast approaching Kyoto 2012 target.

Of the government’s eight adopted policies aimed at mitigating the Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, the NRTEE state that only three of these are currently feasible. The Canadian government estimates that by adopting their said policies then the country will reduce its emissions by 54 million tonnes by 2012.

However these figures do not add up, as after the NRTEE did their own research they found that emissions would be cut by just 27 million tonnes, nearly half of that estimated within the government figures.

A lack of transparency in the government’s methods into calculating the effect of climate change policies has been raised by the NRTEE before.

Speaking to the Calgary Herald, Director of Climate Change at the Pembina institute, Clare Demerse said, “while the report does make note of some improvements to transparency since last year, there’s clearly still a long way to go. Sadly, the bottom line from this report is that Canada’s current climate policies are far too weak to reach our national target for cutting greenhouse gas pollution,” Demerse added.

The findings within the NRTEE report are also a stark reminder to Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent of the role he has to play in addressing the issue of climate change in Canada. In his briefing notes, submitted to his person during his inauguration in January and made public recently, Kent was reminded of how Canada had to be seen to be committed to the issue. If Canada was seen to be doing otherwise there could be serious political and economic implications at a national and international level, as he was made duly aware.

“Going forward, Canada will face domestic and international pressure to demonstrate progress toward its Copenhagen target,” the briefing note read. Commenting on this section of Kent’s briefing notes Demerse added that, “it reads like a plea from Environment Canada’s officials to their new minister [to] make global warming a priority, unfortunately, the Harper government’s track record since January, when these notes were written, gives us no evidence that the message got through.”



by Marc Lee
Progressive Economics Forum, August 4, 2011 

For the past decade, Canada’s GHG emission targets were framed by the Kyoto Protocol, in which Canada committed to a 6% reduction in emissions by 2012 relative to 1990 levels (590 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or Mt CO2e). In spite of signing this treaty and its ratification through Parliament in 2002, Canada has continued to increase emissions.

In 2009, Canada’s 690 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e) emissions were 17% higher than 1990 levels. But using 2009 makes us look better than we are due to the impact of the recession. In 2008 emissions (734 Mt) were 24% higher; in 2007 (748 Mt), 27% higher.

Having abandoned responsibility for adhering to the Kyoto Protocol, Canada signed on to a Kyoto replacement, scandalously cobbled together in Copenhagen in 2009. Under this new deal, our commitment is the same as the US, to reduce GHG emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 (a new target of 607 Mt).

Currently, there is a wide gap between this commitment and emissions reduction planning from federal and provincial governments. A new report from Environment Canada, Canada’s Emission Trends, estimates that existing government actions are expected to reduce GHG emissions by about one-quarter of the reductions in GHG emissions needed to meet the 2020 target. Under business-as-usual conditions, emissions will soar to 850 Mt in 2020; with existing government actions, only to 785 Mt.

Alas, even this commitment is cast under doubt by a new report from the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, one of those distinguished panels the feds love to appoint. They look backward and evaluate programs implemented for their effectiveness and find that Canada’s actions achieved only about half of what had been predicted (good synopsis here).

One wonders why the feds even bother issuing reports like Canada’s Emission Trends when they show off a government that is failing to move on its own inadequate targets. It is like a thumbing of the nose to the rest of the world: “sure, we’ll sign yer dang treaty but don’t expect us to actually implement anything.”

But I’m glad the report is out because one useful thing it does is break down emissions by industrial category, rather than the more opaque “sources of emissions” in the Kyoto accounting system. In Table 3, we learn that (surprise, surprise) the oil and gas industry will account for 46 Mt (86%) of Canada’s anticipated increase in emissions between 2005 and 2020. It also shows the rise of the oil sands as a source of GHG emissions. Emissions from the oil sands are anticipated to triple to 92 Mt in 2020 relative to 30 Mt in 2005 (this is somewhat offset by a drop conventional oil production).

And these are only the emissions from getting the gunk out of the ground and any processing in Canada; emissions from burning those fossil fuels in the US are several times larger, but those count in the US inventory.

Bottom line: Canada cannot achieve its Copenhagen commitment until it takes on the oil and gas industry and compels emission reductions by putting a moratorium on new development, and phasing out the existing industry. As long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, such action is unthinkable (though please surprise me, Steve).

So Canada’s reputation for not living up to its international commitments will continue to worsen, and any announcements to the contrary should be captured and sequestered underground where they hopefully will not leak back to the surface.


  • The Canadian government has taken its revenge on the NRTEE for its scathing report (above) on the government’s failed climate change policies. They are shutting down the NRTEE as of the end of March next year. 

  • The promises that Canada and other countries made during the climate conference will be difficult to keep because everyone knows that the reduction of greenhouse gas has to go hand in hand with other economic reforms. It seems that our own perception of Canada as an environmentally conscious country will be damaged when the final numbers confirm our government’s inability to reach its goals in this particular area.

  • The newly-re-elected Canadian government admitted two months ago that it would not meet the 2012 Kyoto targets and has no intention of participating in the second round of Kyoto emissions reductions after 2012.

    With breathtaking cynicism, a member of the Canadian delegation to the climate talks in Bonn announced, “Now that we’ve finished our election we can say now that Canada will not be taking a target under a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.”