Canada is setting out to reduce its carbon pollution by 30 megatonnes per year by 2030, the equivalent of taking seven million cars off the road, with the introduction last Friday of a clean fuel standard for transportation and heating fuels.
“We stand at the dawn of the clean growth century,” Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna told a business audience in Toronto. “It begins with the choices we make today.”
She cited outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s observation that low-carbon solutions are “also the greatest market opportunity the world has ever known.”
The National Observer describes McKenna as “steamrolling ahead with growing measures to move Canada toward cleaner fuels and energy, even as the neighbouring United States may be headed in the opposite direction.” With global observers “confused about the approach of the incoming regime of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump,” the online daily notes, McKenna’s announcement underscored “that the planet is moving toward a new clean economy, and that no single country can stop that momentum.”
Ottawa plans to consult with provinces, territories, and Indigenous leaders, finalize details of the new standard at next month’s first ministers’ meeting on the pan-Canadian climate plan, then lead consultations on a draft standard beginning in February 2017. The Observer says the standard will be designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels, apply to buildings and industry as well as transportation, and “encourage use of hydrogen, biofuels, and clean electricity without requiring the use of specific fuel sources.”
“This clean fuel standard will be a made-in-Canada approach that will provide flexibility to industry in how they innovate, and reduce emissions throughout the fuel system,” McKenna said. “Designed well, it will stimulate Canadian production of renewable biofuels from the agriculture sector, and use lower-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas.” News coverage pointed to Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia as provinces that already have renewable fuel standards in place.
Environment and climate organizations were mostly pleased with McKenna’s announcement.
“An ambitious clean fuel standard will send a strong market signal to fuel producers and consumers on the need to reduce the climate impacts of fossil fuels currently used in transportation, buildings, and industry,” said Dianne Zimmerman, the Pembina Institute’s transportation and urban solutions policy director. “A performance-based, life-cycle emissions standard is one of the most direct and immediate ways to reduce carbon pollution across the economy.”
Clean Energy Canada Executive Director Merran Smith said the standard will “spur clean growth in both rural and urban areas” and “make a big contribution towards meeting our national climate target,” noting the B.C.’s clean and renewable fuel standard accounted for a quarter of its greenhouse gas reductions between 2007 and 2012.
But Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema warned that carbon reduction policy is just half of the picture. “If the government wants to have credibility on climate change, it needs to ensure consistency in all its decisions, not just the ones that don’t relate to pipelines,” he said.
“Reducing emissions coming from fuels is essential to climate action in Canada,” but “the positive impact of this announcement would be eclipsed by federal approval of new tar sands pipelines. We will never reach our reduction targets if each step forward is followed by two steps backwards.”