Woe, Canada!

8 June 2010

Everybody knows that Canada has walked away from its Kyoto targets, but you may not have heard yet just how fast they’re sprinting in the other direction. In recent weeks, a chorus of leaders – including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the EU’s Jose Manuel Barroso, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon – have pointedly called on Canada to step up its effort on climate, both at home and during the G8/G20 meetings it will host later this month. In the KP this week, it was China’s turn to pile on.  Their negotiators pointed out that Canada is the only country to weaken its target since Copenhagen. This January, Canada scrapped a 2020 target equivalent to 3% below 1990 levels in favour of one equivalent to 3% above 1990, again using the rationale of following the US. Thanks to cooperation between Canada’s opposition parties, who hold a majority of seats in Parliament, the Canadian government is forced to publish annual estimates of the scale of emission reductions its climate policies will produce from 2008 to 2012. The 2010 edition came out last week. The report is a beautiful exercise in government spin. Right after the federal budget, Environment Canada’s website featured slick pages touting their green investments. The verdict from this year’s report? None of those measures are ‘expected to result in quantifiable reductions by 2012’. Past versions of this report made rosy projections of over 50 Mt of emission reductions by 2012. But then the government decided to wait for the US before even considering carbon pricing in Canada. This year’s report shows the consequences of that decision: a tenfold decrease in projected emission cuts down to a mere 5 Mt by 2012 (just 1.4% below business as usual). Here’s the bottom line: absolute emissions will keep rising every year through 2012 in Canada, even when all the government’s policies have been factored in. Clearly a master of understatement, Canada’s Environment Minister’s response (via a spokesperson) was that ‘there is still work to be done’. Well spotted, Mr. Minister.

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