OTTAWA — While most of the political world was tuning in to the throne speech on Friday, the federal government quietly introduced a report showing that Ottawa’s emissions-cutting efforts have barely made a dent to date.
The report is a required annual accounting of what Ottawa’s rules and regulations have done to bring down the amount of greenhouse gases produced in Canada.
It isolates the effects of federal measures and shows they led to a four-megatonne reduction in greenhouse gases in 2009, on total emissions of 694 megatonnes.
That’s up from two megatonnes in 2008. But it means that federal measures were responsible for reductions of just over one half of one per cent of Canada’s total emissions.
“The report reconfirms that the Harper government doesn’t actually have a climate-change plan,” said said the NDP’s new environment critic, MP Megan Leslie.
She said the numbers show that not only is Ottawa falling far short of meeting its old Kyoto obligations, it is not on a solid track to meet new obligations agreed to last year in Copenhagen.
“It’s hard not to think that this report was buried on purpose,” she commented.
Federal policies are expected to be slightly more productive in the coming years, the report shows. But emissions themselves are outpacing federal policy, projected to rise to 731 megatonnes by 2012.
Environment Minister Peter Kent has said the big federal moves on greenhouse gases are still to come, with regulations for coal-fired electricity plants and the oilsands expected over the next couple of years.
He insists that the government has a climate-change plan that involves a slow ramping-up of federal regulations in those areas and others, until emissions are well under control by 2020.
“We do have a plan and that plan . . . is working,” he said in the Commons on Monday.
That would be a contrast to what has happened in recent years. Despite all the talk over the last decade about the need to do something about climate change, and the signing of the Kyoto protocol, Canada’s emissions will likely come in 805 megatonnes above the amount the country was allotted under that five-year international treaty, the report shows.
Rather than the Kyoto protocol, Kent has his sights set on a more recent commitment to reduce emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels as of 2020. That would mean wrestling emissions down to 607 megatonnes a year — a long way to go from the 731 megatonnes forecast for 2011.
Overall, Canada’s emissions fell slightly in 2009 compared to a year earlier, to 690 megatonnes from 732, with federal policies responsible for trimming just four megatonnes. That’s the second year in a row for a decline, but it’s not likely to be repeated, tables in the report show.
That’s because the total decrease was due mainly to the recession, which slowed business activity, and to reduced use of coal for the generation of electricity.
The report shows that of all the federal programs targeting greenhouse gases, the most effective has been an incentive plan aimed at encouraging power producers and utilities to use renewable power such as wind, hydro and solar.
Federal incentives to promote the construction of environmentally efficient buildings as well as government money for home retrofits have also been fairly effective, the report shows.
But those are the very programs that are in the government crosshairs as federal cuts to spending begin to take hold, Leslie says.
“It smacks of hypocrisy.”