A Failing Grade for Canada’s Climate Policy

The Canadian government is failing when it comes to reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, and isn’t on track to meet reduction goals set for 2020 and 2050, according to professor and environmental analyst Mark Jaccard, of Simon Fraser Univ.

CanadaEmissionsx250“I find that in the nine years since its promise to reduce Canadian emissions 20% by 2020 and 65% by 2050, the Canadian government has implemented virtually no policies that would materially reduce emissions,” he writes in his climate policy report card. “The 2020 target is now unachievable without great harm to the Canadian economy.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in 2009, changed the 2020 target from 20% to 17% of 2005’s emissions, which was 749 Mt. In 2014, the country produced 726 Mt of carbon dioxide.

Emissions have been steadily increasing since 1990, fluctuated between 2005 and 2008 and notably declined in 2009, according to the Canadian government. Since then, emissions have been slightly rising.

Jaccard credits the global recession of 2008 and 2009 with the cause of temporary reductions in Canada’s emissions. Additionally, Ontario reduced its emissions by 80% after closing or converting its coal-fired power plants over a 10-year period, between 2004 and 2014. According to Jaccard, this was possible due to coal providing only 25% of Ontario’s electricity.

Speaking with The Globe and Mail, a spokesperson for Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Canada has a proven track record in reducing greenhouse emissions, including a major investment in clean energy in Ottawa.

“The Harper government did pass regulations to phase out traditional coal-fired power, but those won’t have an impact for the next 10 to 15 years,” the media outlet reports. “As well, Ottawa has matched U.S. moves to impose increasingly tough fuel efficiency standards on vehicle, but, again, those regulations will yield little result before 2020.”

Exploring reasons behind inactivity regarding regulations, Harper suggests the dynamic between immediate costs and long-term benefits may deter politicians from imposing regulations. Further, some may view the issue as to much for a single country to handle, and will stave off action until a near-universal global effort occurs.

For Canada, “a failing grade is obviously the result,” Jaccard writes.

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