Umbrella Series Part 1: Canada and the Case of the Missing Tar Sands Emissions…

The tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions.  While the country’s emissions in 2009 decreased overall, in large part due to the recession (as we know they ain’t doing nothing on the climate front), emissions from tar sands jumped a whopping 10-20%, and now account for 6.5% of Canada’s overall emissions. This means that emissions from Canada’s dirty oil sector have grown by over 250% since 1990, and with no federal action to keep them under control, the tar sands are poised to balloon even faster in the years to come. 

Where does ECO get these numbers from, you may ask?  You would think the answer is, of course, Canada’s 2009 National Inventory Report (published in 2011), but in fact, they come from investigative reporting by a Canadian journalist – which has been stirring up quite the press coverage in Canada, the US and even the UK.   It seems Canada opted not to report on emissions from tar sands this year, in contrast to their 2008 report (see tables 2-16 and 2-18). 

To be fair, Canada contends that the current UNFCCC guidelines do not require separate tar sand emissions reporting (though ECO will wait for the ERT report before commenting).  Their NIR does account for these emissions, but only under very broad categories like "Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction" or "Fugitive Emissions."  Yet, the nagging question remains:  Why the change, Canada?

ECO welcomes your 2008 NIR effort at transparency, but can only be a bit suspicious that you drop the data category a year later (when emission are on the rise).  After all, you are the only country to downgrade your target after Copenhagen and like to play number games with your targets (Canada’s new target of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 is equal to a 3% increase above 1990 or 9% above that pesky Kyoto target compared to the country’s previous unilateral 2020 target of 20% below 2006 levels or 3% below 1990 levels). And it’s a bit convenient, shall we say, to drop sectoral numbers just when the government is talking about introducing sector-by-sector regulations.

In today’s mitigation workshop, ECO hopes Canada acknowledges that tar sands are its fastest growing sector and outlines how it plans to tackle those emissions — as well as those from the rest of the economy — with the speed and gusto required by ever-more-dire climate science.

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