April 19th, 2010 | Ted Dhillon
It is no secret that Canada has fallen woefully short of its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. At more than 750 million tonnes of CO2e of GHG emissions annually, Canada exceeds its Kyoto Protocol target of six percent below 1990 levels by over 30 percent.
Canada’s lethargy in instituting a federally mandated GHG scheme can largely be attributed to political dithering. The current Conservative government aggressively opposes any binding reductions and blames the previous Liberal government for signing the Kyoto Protocol but not passing an aggressive climate policy to achieve those aims.
The Alberta oil sands, for example, contribute little over 5% of Canada’s emissions (Conference Board of Canada); being the main Conservative political stronghold, it was convenient for the Harper government to align with the previous Bush administration and take a position that blamed developing countries like India and China for deadlocked climate talks. However, with the US moving aggressively under Obama’s leadership, Canada risks being left behind which could have significant economic impacts in terms of taking advantage of international carbon trading schemes and introduction of future carbon taxes on exports from Canada.
In the absence of coherent Federal direction, some Canadian provinces have taken unilateral steps to ensure that they do not miss any potential benefits from the shift to a carbon constrained economy. While the Federal plan targets reductions by 2020 and 2050, and aims at channeling significant funds into still emerging CCS technologies, provincial policies with more immediate impact have already been introduced. British Columbia, for example, introduced a carbon tax on all fossil fuels, while Quebec and Ontario have started to phase out coal-fired generation.
The writing is on the wall; under significant international pressure and unilateral action by provinces, it is only a matter of time before a more stringent federally mandated GHG emissions regime is introduced. While its exact nature is uncertain, it most likely will be some combination of cap and trade, incentives, taxes, and focused funding for clean technologies.
(Excerpt taken from an article entitled “Copenhagen and Beyond” authored by self and Dr. Bernard Fleet, and published in the ESE magazine in Jan 2010; please contact me for a copy of the article)