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Canada behind on emissions

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OTTAWA -- The latest internal government report confirms Canada is not even close to being on track for meeting its promised target for emissions cuts by the year 2020.

In fact, the Environment Canada analysis released Thursday indicates the country slipped backward in 2012 in achieving the government's greenhouse gas emissions target under the Copenhagen Accord.

Under that international agreement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed in 2009 to cutting Canada's emissions 17 per cent from 2005 levels by the year 2020.

"This represents a significant challenge in light of economic growth," states the 77-page Canada's Emission Trends, the third such annual report.

Even with long-overdue government regulations on the oil and gas sector, not yet announced, Environment Canada doesn't foresee a scenario where the 2020 target will be met.

The government has repeatedly boasted it is halfway to the Copenhagen commitment -- another way of saying the trend line shows Canada will fall 50 per cent short of the target. The United States, with the same 17 per cent reduction target, announced last month it was on pace to meet the goal.

Last year, Environment Canada predicted national GHG emissions would total 720 megatonnes in 2020. This year's update has raised that total to 734 megatonnes -- even farther from the 607-megatonne target.

Still, the government says it remains optimistic emissions intensity -- the amount of gases emitted per unit of GDP -- is falling year over year.

It points out that, because of rising emissions elsewhere in the world, Canada's global share of carbon dioxide emissions from burning fuels will actually fall to 1.6 per cent by 2020 from about 1.8 per cent today.

The analysis notes "according to the International Panel on Climate Change, human-caused emissions are tipping the balance towards climate change... "

The UN-based panel of international scientists was more emphatic when it reported last month.

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia," the IPCC reported on Sept. 27.

Environmental groups say the latest Environment Canada report shows the federal government's poor environmental policies. Even Environment Canada concedes in its analysis many emissions reductions to date have come from provincial government actions.

"Not only will the Harper government miss its own climate target, it is actually moving further and further away from that target," Christian Holz of Climate Action Network Canada said in a release.

The Pembina Institute issued a release saying it is not too late for the government to get serious. "The most crucial component of a credible plan to get Canada back on track is strong regulations for the oil and gas sector," said Pembina analyst P.J. Partington.

The report says increased production in Alberta's oilsands will result in overall emissions from the oil and gas sector rising 23 per cent between 2005 and 2020. It suggests the future path of Canadian emissions will depend on half a dozen variables, including population growth, consumer behaviour, technology breakthroughs and government actions.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 25, 2013 A15

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