TORONTO – Canada announced Friday it plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 amid international efforts to create a new framework for addressing climate change.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government said it formally submitted its target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ahead of the major climate change conference in Paris in December.
The U.S. has committed to a 26 per cent to 28 per cent cut by 2025 from 2005 levels. The EU has a target of 35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Japan is proposing to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 26 per cent by 2030. China, the world’s largest emitter, has not officially filed its target yet, but China did set a target for the country’s emissions to peak by 2030 in a joint climate announcement with the U.S. last November.
A new international framework replacing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is to be discussed at the Paris conference. The anti-global warming treaty has been largely ineffective because only rich countries were required to limit their emissions. Poorer countries have been reluctant to make commitments in a new framework.
Harper pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2011, saying the accord would not help solve the climate crisis. That dealt a blow to the treaty, which had not been formally renounced by any other country. The U.S. never signed up.
Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the new target is fair and ambitious and reflects the country’s economic circumstances. Aglukkaq said they would introduce new regulations on methane emissions produced by the oil and gas industry as well as for natural gas-fired power generation and for the chemical and nitrogen fertilizer industries. There was no mention of new regulations for Alberta’s oil sands industry, Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions.
Canada might also buy international credits to meet its targets. Canada could get deductions from its counted emissions by investing in environmentally friendly projects in other countries.
Elliot Diringer, executive vice-president of the U.S.-based Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said when measured against current emissions, Canada’s target is roughly comparable to the U.S. and the EU targets.
“Given that Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol and that it is not on track to meet its 2020 target, Canada will have to work very hard to persuade the international community that it can deliver on its 2030 target,” Diriniger said. “It would require significant effort beyond business as usual to deliver that reduction.”
Environmentalists have long criticized Canada as being an outlier on efforts to curb climate change. Harper has called Canada an emerging energy superpower and has avoided doing anything to get in the way of that.
Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, with more than 170 billion barrels. Daily production is expected to more than double by 2025. Only Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have more reserves. But critics say the enormous amount of energy and water needed in the extraction process increases greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, Canada vowed to cut emissions 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, but Environment Canada reported last month that the country’s greenhouse gas emissions rose between 2012 and 2013 to 726 megatons. It was the fourth consecutive annual increase.
“What hopefully Paris produces is institutionalized peer pressure to hold countries accountable for their promises,” Diriniger said.