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Canada still far from meeting climate targets: Govt report

Canada is nowhere close to meeting its international climate change commitments, even though greenhouse gas emissions fell six percent between 2008 and 2009, Environment Canada reports.

The drop, which is explained partly by the global recession and reduced coal usage, still left total national emissions 17 percent above 1990 levels.

Those figures were contained in Canada’s annual report to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, submitted earlier this week.

That reporting is required under the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for a six percent emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2012. Canada, as the recent report indicates, is far from hitting that target.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, however, signed onto the less-stringent Copenhagen Accord in late 2009.

By 2020, assuming Canada meets its revised targets, national emissions will be 2.5 percent above 1990 levels, according to Greenpeace calculations.

Of course, as Environment Canada suggested earlier this year, you should never assume anything.

Under current federal and provincial government policies, it noted, Canada risked falling 75 percent short of even those more modest benchmarks.

The Pembina Institute helped commission a 2009 report arguing the Canadian economy need not suffer from drastic emissions reductions.

It’s entirely possible, noted the MK Jaccard and Associates study, that by imposing a carbon price around $200 per tonne by 2020, the federal government could far exceed its Copenhagen commitments.

Average national GDP growth during that period would increase roughly 23 percent, about 4 percent less than a business as usual scenario, it noted.

Federal environment minister Peter Kent said Thursday that cap and trade, one of several key mechanisms for achieving high carbon prices, is “off-the-table” for the time being.

“There's no expectation of cap-and-trade continentally in the near or medium future,” he told reporters.

Harper's conservative majority is committed to sector by sector greenhouse gas regulation. Green observers such as the Pembina Institute argue that approach is more cumbersome and costly than broad carbon pricing.

Kent promised new regulations targeting Alberta’s oil sands industry later this year.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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