TORONTO - The federal government is failing to take the lead on climate change while the provinces are trying to tackle the issue with a patchwork of individual plans.
That's the analysis emerging from a report released by the David Suzuki Foundation Wednesday called "All Over the Map 2012."
The document ranks the country's provinces and territories on their climate change policies and makes recommendations for improvement.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW
Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia topped the list with "very good" policies which prioritized clean energy while Alberta and Saskatchewan were ranked the "worst."
"The report shows stronger leadership from the provinces is crucial given the lack of effort by the federal government on reducing global warming emissions," said Ian Bruce, a climate change and clean energy specialist with the foundation.
"The provinces have proven that not only can we make progress but we can actually improve our quality of life."
Bruce added that Canada could be a world leader if the federal government was an active collaborator in the fight against climate change.
"The federal government has been focusing more on exploitation of fossil fuels and has really missed out on opportunities to invest in cleaner, more innovative energy sources," he said.
The report was released as federal Environment Minister Peter Kent announced a new greenhouse-gas report showing emissions remained stable in 2010 even as the economy grew, suggesting the rebound from recession didn't come at the expense of the environment.
"We work very closely with the provinces and the territories," Kent said when asked to respond to criticism about the federal government not collaborating enough with the provinces on climate change.
"We work in the jurisdiction where we have authority, like the transportation sector, the auto industry."
The Suzuki Foundation, however, said the jurisdiction argument is moot as all major sources of emissions can be addressed through both federal and provincial policies.
Its report pointed out that provinces are responsible for natural resource management, electricity sectors and building codes while the federal government can regulate pollution and greenhouse gases which are considered toxic.
"What Canada needs is a full suite of policies to tackle all sources of greenhouse gases," the document said. "Technologies already exist to dramatically cut emissions. We understand which policies work. The only missing ingredient is political leadership."
While evaluating the provinces, the report cited Ontario's "pioneering" Green Energy Act as a key reason for its high ranking, saying the legislation had already brought about environmental and economic benefits and could serve as a blueprint for other jurisdictions.
British Columbia actually saw its position drop from being the "best" province in 2008 to a "very good" ranking. The report said the province still leads the country on pricing carbon pollution but has "lost momentum and stalled" on measures to ensure it meets its 2020 reduction target. The report points to shale gas and the potential development of a gas-powered plant as elements which would undermine B.C.'s position.
Quebec, meanwhile, was identified as another leader in climate change, but the report said the province's commitment to expanding oil and gas exploration, as well as road and highway building, threaten its progress.
On the other end of the spectrum, Alberta's negative ranking came as a result of its continuing commitment to polluting fossil fuel industries, the report said. It predicts the province is only likely to achieve one third of its pollution reduction target for 2020.
Saskatchewan, which was coupled with Alberta as the "worst" provinces on climate change, was classified by the report as a jurisdiction which simply didn't take the issue seriously.
The report also outlined two concerning trends— the rush to exploit oil and gas resources as quickly as possible, and a lack of progress on reversing emissions from road transportation.
The foundation is hoping its report will encourage provinces to share successful policies and learn from each other's mistakes.
"We hope that this will encourage a race to the top when it comes to showing leadership on climate change in Canada," said Bruce.