Canada logged only a fractional reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions between 2014 and 2015, and has a daunting 200 megatonnes to cut by 2030 to keep its Harper-era promises under the Paris agreement, according to a Canadian Press report this week.
The country committed in Paris to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from 2005 levels—to 523 megatonnes a year—by the end of the next decade. But “the latest national emissions inventory report, published in April, shows Canada’s emissions at 722 million tonnes in 2015, down just 0.7% from the previous year,” CP reports. That means “Canada has just 13 years to cut almost 200 million tonnes of yearly carbon emissions if it hopes to meet its international climate treaty obligations.”
To give scale to that challenge, the news agency notes that 200 Mt of CO2-equivalent emissions represent the tailpipe exhaust from twice the actual number of cars registered in Canada as of 2015. Pipeline projects currently approved would, if completed, add another 40 MT to the gap the country has promised to close.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna is counting on a variety of initiatives to add up to the critical sum of 200 Mt of eliminated emissions. “If you look at the plan, it shows how we are going to get to the target,” McKenna has said. “We’ve taken very serious measures.”
The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is expected to reduce annual emissions by 86 Mt by 2030. Another 89 Mt is to come from “other measures committed to prior to the framework, such as Alberta’s phase-out of coal-powered electricity plants and Saskatchewan’s renewable energy target.” The remaining 25-Mt gap is to be closed by a variety of “investments in public transit and green infrastructure, clean technology and stored carbon in forests, wetlands, and soils,” CP notes.
Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) Chair Michael Cleland, a former president of the Canadian Gas Association and lobbyist for large electrical utilities, calculates the chances of all that happening as “zero”, adding that “I don’t see events or forces in the offing that are likely to change that in the next couple of years”.
Dale Marshall, national program manager at Environmental Defence, concedes that “there is a gap right now” in Canada’s emission trajectory, “but I think technology will continue to evolve quite quickly.” He expects consumer uptake of electric cars to happen “far faster than either the government or the industry are expecting,” while demand for fossil fuels drops and opposition to those approved pipelines digs in.
“I think there is a reasonable chance we’re going to hit our 2030 target,” Marshall told CP.