OTTAWA - Canada remains well short of meeting its international 2020 climate change commitment, Environment Canada reported Monday, even if the economy tanks and global oil and gas prices remain on the skids.
Even under the worst-case scenario, the 2014 Emissions Report says Canada would still fail to cut greenhouse gases 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 — as Canada committed to do under the Copenhagen accord.
The report, which includes measured emissions through 2012, suggests that under its benchmark projection, known as a reference scenario, Canada will get just over halfway to its international commitment.
"The government of Canada is focused on a pragmatic approach to addressing climate change that will reduce emissions while continuing to create jobs and encourage the growth of the economy," states the report.
Sharply rising GHG emissions in the oil and gas sector will almost completely offset falling greenhouse gases from Canada's electricity generating sector — leaving Canada 1.2 per cent below 2005 levels if all existing and announced measures remain in place through 2020.
In fact, greenhouse gas emissions will actually increase between 2005 and 2020. But the Conservative government has told the United Nations that it will count the carbon sink contribution of Canada's boreal forest against its GHG totals.
"As the economy grows beyond 2012 (the latest year available for historical emissions levels), total emissions are projected to increase," states the report.
The report comes as Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq is in Lima, Peru, for international talks on the next global climate accord, which is supposed to be finalized in December 2015.
"It's absolutely a black eye for us internationally," NDP environment critic Megan Leslie said in an interview.
The Conservative mantra has long been that the world's major emitters must all be at the table, Leslie said — a tune that hasn't changed even after last month's agreement between the world's two biggest emitters, China and the U.S.
"It's all happening around us and we're not a party to that conversation."
The report shows Canada will be 116 megatonnes short of its 2020 commitment under the reference scenario, giving it a "snowball's chance in hell" of meeting its international target, said Liberal critic John McKay.
Environment Canada used three different scenarios for estimating emissions to 2020.
Under a case of booming economic growth and high fossil fuel prices, Canada would emit 781 megatonnes of GHGs in 2020, far above the 611 Mt target under Copenhagen.
The reference scenario sees Canada emitting 746 megatonnes in 2020, about 53 per cent of the way to its target, while anemic annual growth of 1.5 per cent annually and low global prices for oil and gas could get Canada down to 716 Mt.
The benchmark price of crude oil is off nearly 40 per cent since July, the lowest it's been in five years, and has continued to slide since the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to maintain its production last month rather than cut it in order to support prices.
What's clear from the report is that the oil and gas sector is driving emissions growth and will continue to do so through 2020 under current government policies.
Environment Canada projects oil and gas emissions will rise 45 Mt over 2005 levels by 2020, almost offsetting the 50 Mt drop in electricity generation emissions for the same period. The other significant area of GHG growth is from buildings, up 14 Mt by 2020.
The Conservatives have been promising regulations on the oil and gas sector since 2008 but keep punting action into some indefinite future.
"I don't understand how the environment minister can continue to stall on limiting emissions from the oil industry when her own ministry's data shows that the rapidly rising pollution from the tar sands is what prevents Canada from keeping its word on the world stage," said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada.
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