Saturday, May 26, 2007

Canadian Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fall in 2005 - Let's Make Sure It Becomes a Trend, Not a Blip

There was an encouraging story in the Toronto Star today:
"Gloomy forecasts about Canada's efforts to halt global warming brightened yesterday with the release of new figures showing that greenhouse gas emissions dropped slightly between 2004 and 2005, the most recent period for which figures are available.

"According to a national emissions inventory that will be presented to the United Nations tomorrow, an anticipated increase in the gases that contribute to climate change failed to materialize in 2005.

"Instead, Canada's emissions dropped to 747 megatonnes in 2005 from 758 megatonnes in 2004, according to government calculations.

"Overall emissions in 2005 were still 32.7 per cent above the greenhouse gas cuts called for under the Kyoto Protocol by 2012."

Could it be that the Canadian economy can actually turn around and reduce total emissions (not just "emission intensity" per dollar of output) without causing a massive recession -- contrary to Conservative fear-mongering? Might former Ontario Premier Mike Harris deserve a footnote to his otherwise abysmal environmental record for helping with these emission cuts (though at the expense of creating more nuclear waste)? Can Liberal Leader Stephan Dion stop his valiant attempts to defend the Liberals' record on grenhouse gas emissions, and take pride in making Kyoto part of industrial planning in this country?

(UPDATE May 27, 2007, 9:31 AM: LNeumann disagrees with giving the former Harris Conservative Government in Ontario credit for greenhouse gas reductions from coal power generation. She says that Dalton McGuinty's Liberal Government should get credit for actually reducing the use of coal for electricity in Ontario since the 2003 election. The McGuinty Government says that

"From 2003 to 2005... progress includes:

"* Closing the single-largest contributor to smog in the GTA — the Lakeview Generating Station in Mississauga — in April 2005.

"* Reducing total coal-fired electricity generation in Ontario from 36.2 terawatt-hours to 30.1 terawatt-hours, a drop of 17 per cent.

"* Reducing carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, by 15 per cent.

"* Reducing sulphur dioxide emissions by 28 per cent.

"* Reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by 34 per cent."

See also their News Release, bringing the data up to 2006.)

Unfortunately for politicians of all stripes, one year does not make a trend. As the Toronto Star article itself points out,
"There have [sic.] also been modest declines in emissions in 1991 and 2001 that proved to be just one-year anomalies."
Getting 2006 Canada-wide data ASAP, to compare with the 2005 numbers, would be great.

In any event, we need sustained, multi-year reductions in total emissions to reach or even come close to our Kyoto obligations. The latest Baird scheme does not even aim to comply with Kyoto; in fact, his scheme would not guarantee any reductions in total emissions (see the stories under the "Baird" label in this blog for more details).

(Update May 28, 2007, 1:03 AM: Unfortunately, Dalton McGuinty is not really getting it either. First came the delay in shutting down Ontario's remaining coal power stations. Next was an emissions-trading proposal to Northeastern U.S. jurisdictions where Ontario would have tried to claim credit for emissions cuts due to decisions predating the agreement (i.e. cuts that would have happened anyway). Recently another McGuinty's "cap and trade" emission proposal failed to get support even from Quebec, never mind Alberta. Now there's an agreement with California to follow their standards for carbon content in fuels -- but not their standard for efficient cars.

How many more delays, half-measures, creative accounting exercises and ineffectual proposals would it take before the Ontario Government realizes that it's time to get serious? That would mean doing the right thing consistently, regardless of who else may come on board.)

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