OTTAWA—A recently released federal report suggests the gap is growing between Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction promises and what its policies are likely to achieve.
The news comes as the Liberal government continues to promise a new pipeline will be built to take bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to ports in British Columbia—a move critics say would push Canada’s emissions even higher.
In December, the government delivered a report to the United Nations outlining its progress on reaching targets agreed to in the Paris Accord to fight climate change. Canada has promised to reduce those emissions to the equivalent of 517 megatonnes of carbon dioxide.
In 2016, Ottawa made a similar report to the UN acknowledging that both its current and planned policies would likely leave the country 44 megatonnes short of its target.
But in the recent report, Canada notes the gap between its commitments and the likely result of its policies has grown to 66 megatonnes—a 50 per cent increase in only 18 months.
Environment Canada was unable to immediately explain that expanding shortfall. Figures for greenhouse gas emissions in the report are only given up to 2015 and are reported to have been largely stable for several years previously.
Keith Stewart of Greenpeace said the increasing gap between promises and probable results is likely due to increasing energy production.
“There might be some changes from demographic growth, but I can’t believe there’s been a huge change in those projections in a year and a half,” he said. “I think the main factor here is oil and gas.”
Figures from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers suggest overall oil production declined by 15 per cent between 2014 and 2016. Production from the oilsands, the most carbon-intensive form of production, increased 12 per cent over that time.
Stewart said Canada should not be considering a new pipeline to move more of that high-carbon production at a time when the country is falling further behind its commitments. Pipeline critics say building more infrastructure to move the product will only increase production.
“Another pipeline is just going to dig an even deeper hole,” he said.
Simon Fraser University energy economist Mark Jaccard said, overall, Canada’s climate change policies aren’t tough enough to meet its targets.
“We would need much higher stringency of any package of the intended policies to achieve Paris (targets),” he said.
Higher carbon taxes, though politically difficult, are one method. Others include a lower overall emissions cap on the oilsands, tighter rules on methane emissions, quicker phase-out of coal-generated power that leans more on renewables than natural gas and a clean fuel standard.
“We can do it all with only carbon taxes. We can do it all with only regulations. We can do it all with a combination.”
A “package” of policies is called for, he said.
In its report, Environment Canada offered few specifics on how the 66 missing megatonnes of carbon might be made up.
It said greater reductions might come from investments in public transit and clean technology. Calculations of the capacity of forests and wetlands to store carbon may also increase, the report says.