Canada’s progress on emissions reduction: New reports from OECD, UNFCCC , and policy discussion

An excellent overview article about Canada’s  “staggering challenge” and policy options to meet its emissions reduction targets appeared in The Conversation on January  11, 2018),  written by Warren Mabee, Director of the  Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University and a Co-Investigator in  the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (  ACW) project.   “How your online shopping is impeding Canada’s emissions targets”  outlines  the issues of clean electricity, transportation emissions (where your online shopping can make a difference), greener homes,  and rethinking fossil resources, and concludes that  “If we’re to succeed, Canada will need an integrated, holistic suite of policies – and we need them to be in place soon.”

oecd-environmental-performance-reviews-canada-2017_9789264279612-enOther recent publications take stock of Canada’s emissions reductions in greater detail.  In its  3rd Environmental Performance Review for Canada released on December 19, the OECD warns that  “Without a drastic decrease in the emissions intensity of the oilsands industry, the projected increase in oil production may seriously risk the achievement of Canada’s climate mitigation targets… …“Canada is the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the OECD [in absolute terms], and emissions show no sign of falling yet.”  Canada’s emissions actually did decrease since the last report was issued in 2004, but only by 1.5 per cent compared to reduction of 4.7 per cent by the OECD as a whole.  In addition to the impact of oil sands production, the OECD singles out a regime of poor tax incentives: “Petrol and diesel taxes for road use are among the lowest in the OECD, fossil fuels used for electricity and heating remain untaxed or taxed at low rates in most jurisdictions, and the federal excise tax on fuel-inefficient vehicles is an ineffective incentive to purchase low-emission vehicles.”

The OECD analysis finds support in a report from two researchers from the University of Toronto, in “How the oil sands make our GHG targets unachievable”   in Policy Options.  They state: “… only with a complete phase-out of oil production from the oil sands, elimination of coal for electricity generation, significant replacement of natural-gas-fuelled electricity generation with electricity from carbon-free sources, and stringent efficiency measures in all other sectors of the economy could Canada plausibly meet its 30 percent target.” The authors recommend a  gradual (12-to-15-year) phase-out of oil sands operations, with workers and capital redeployed to emerging sectors  such as renewable energy and building retrofits, and contend that  the importance of oil sands production is overstated. “….  the direct contribution of the entire oil, gas and mining sector to Alberta’s 2016 GDP was 16.4 percent, of which oil sands mining and processing was likely about one-third (or 5 to 6 percent of total provincial GDP)” ….and oil sands oil production is estimated to account for only 2 percent of Canadian GDP.”

Yet the federal government continues the difficult balancing act of a  “have-it-all” approach – for example, in a speech by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr  in November 2017, in which he defended the approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline with: “We need to prepare for the future, but we must deal with the present …..That means continuing to support our oil and gas resources even as we develop alternatives – including solar, wind and tidal…. new pipelines will diversify our markets, be built with improved environmental safety and create thousands of good middle-class jobs, including in Indigenous communities. They were the right decisions then and they are the right ones now. ” A recent blog by Patrick DeRochie of Environmental Defence, “Trudeau Thinks We Can Expand Oil And Still Reduce Carbon. Let’s Put That To A Test” , challenges this view .

On December 29, Canada issued a press release announcing that it has submitted its Seventh National Communication and Third Biennial Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , required by the UNFCCC to document progress towards its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal of 30% reduction from 2005 levels.  The title of the government press release, “Canada’s Climate action is Working, Report to United Nations Confirms” is justified by including estimates of the effects of policies still under development in a “with additional measures scenario”. Under that scenario, the government forecasts an emissions decline across all economic sectors,  equivalent to approximately a third of Canada’s emissions in 2015 by 2030… ”

Meanwhile, the federal government has released a number of announcements and legislative proposals in December 2017 and January 2018. Regarding  the planned carbon pricing backstop under the Pan-Canadian Framework, which will come into effect by January 2019:  Details are set out in:  Supplemental Benchmark Guidance   Timelines ,  and the Letter to Ministers in December, and on January 15, the  proposed carbon backstop  legislative framework was released as Legislative and Regulatory Proposals Relating to the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act and Explanatory Notes (French version here) .  Also on January 15, the federal government released for comment the proposed regulatory framework for  carbon pricing for large industrial facilities – an Output-based Pricing System (OBPS) described in more detail in a separate WCR post here.

On December 12, the  Clean Fuel Standard Regulatory Framework was released for comment.  The government has also committed to developing a national strategy for zero emission vehicles in 2018 to increase the supply of zero-emission vehicles.

Also on December 12, and capping six months of consultation under the banner Generation Energy,  the Minister of Natural Resources announced the creation of a 14-member Generation Energy Council to be co-chaired by Merran Smith,  Executive Director of Clean Energy Canada, and Linda Coady, Chief Sustainability Officer at Enbridge. (Bios of all members are here ). The council is tasked with preparing a  report to advise the government on an “ energy policy that ensures meaningful engagement with Indigenous peoples; aligns with Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments and the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change; and complements the work being done by the provinces and territories, building on the shared priorities identified at the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Meeting at the Forum.”

 

 

 

 

Pollution cost Canada $2 billion in Lost Labour Output alone

The June 2017 report, Costs of Pollution in Canada: Measuring the impacts on families, businesses and governments reviews and synthesizes existing studies to produce the most comprehensive assessment of pollution and its costs  in Canada to date. Some quick facts: the cost of climate change-related heat waves in Canada is estimated to have been $1.6 billion in 2015; Smog alone cost Canadians $36 billion in 2015. But the report also provides detailed estimates, organized in three categories: 1.  Direct Welfare Costs: (Harm to health and well-being such as  lower enjoyment of life, sickness and premature death); 2.  Direct Income Costs – (Direct out of pocket expenses for families (e.g. medications for asthma), businesses (e.g. increased maintenance costs for buildings) and governments (remediation of polluted sites); and 3. Wealth impacts.

Direct Welfare Costs of pollution, the most studied and understood,  are estimated as at least $39 billion in 2015, or about $4,300 for a family of four.  The Direct Income Costs   that could be measured amounted to $3.3 billion in 2015, but the study cautions that this many important costs could not be measured, and full impacts on income were likely in the tens of billions of dollars.  In this category, the study estimates  Lost Labour Outputs, using a metric derived from the 2016  OECD study,  The  Economic Consequences of Outdoor Air Pollution.  The OECD estimates outdoor air pollution to cost 0.1% of national GDP, which, when applied to Canada’s  2015 GDP of approximately  $1,986 billion, implies a costs of about $2 billion in lost labour output alone. And finally, Wealth impacts, or costs on value of assets , are said to be the least understood of pollution costs, about which, “We simply do not know how much pollution costs us in terms of lost wealth”.

Costs of Pollution in Canada: Measuring the impacts on families, businesses and governments was prepared by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), with funding from the Ivey Foundation; the full report is available in English- only. Summaries are in English  and French.Short  videos were derived in cooperation with the Conference Board of Canada to focus on key topics:  e.g. extreme weather, contaminated sites, and smog .

Canadian GHG emissions decreased by 2.2% from 2005, according to the latest report to UNFCCC

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) posted the National Inventory Reports of greenhouse gas emissions from most countries of the world in the second week of April 2017, including   Canada’s National Inventory Report 1990–2015: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.   The full 3-part report, available only at the UNFCC website, is an exhaustive inventory emissions of GHG’s, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride, reported for the country and for each province and territory.  Statistics are given for five economic sectors, as defined and required by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) :  Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use, Agriculture, Waste, and Land Use, and Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).  An Executive Summary is posted at Environment and Climate Change Canada, and includes statistics using Canadian economic sector definitions.

A few  highlights:  In 2013; Canada represented approximately 1.6% of total global GHG emissions. Canada remains one of the highest per capita emitters, although that is decreasing since 2005 and was the lowest yet in 2015,  at 20.1 tons.  In 2015, Canada’s GHG emissions were 722 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – a net decrease of  2.2% from 2005 .  The Energy Sector ( as defined by IPCC, consisting of Stationary Combustion Sources, Transport, and Fugitive Sources) emitted 81% of Canada’s total GHG emissions;  Agriculture emitted  8%; Industrial Processes  and Product Use emitted 7%; the  Waste Sector emitted 3%.

Using Canadian economic sector definitions, our Oil and Gas sector showed a 20% increase in emissions from 2005 to 2015; Transportation increased by  6% in that time.

Nationally, we posted a 31% decrease in emissions associated with electricity production. The permanent closure of all coal generating stations in the province of Ontario by 2014 was the determinant factor.

emissions by province 2015

From:  National Inventory Report 1990 – 2015 Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada; Figure S-9 Emissions by Province in 2005, 2010, and 2015

 

 

Ceremonial Signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, Earth Day 2016

cop21 logo As widely reported, over 170 national representatives took part in a ceremonial signing of the Paris climate agreement    at the U.N. in New York on April 22, Earth Day.  The Paris Agreement comes into force when countries representing at least 55% of total global greenhouse gasses, and 55% of the population, join the agreement.  See “US and China lead push to bring Paris climate deal into force early”   in The Guardian for details of each country’s proportion of emissions, and national ratification prospects.  “The Key Players in Climate Change” in the  New York Times (April 21)  provides an overview of the major emmiters: U.S., China, EU, Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia.  Although Canada is one of the highest per capita emitters in the world, it represents approximately 1.6% of total global GHG emissions in 2012.

A brief  press release from Canada’s PMO is here.   Prime Minister Trudeau pledged that Canada’s House of Commons would ratify the agreement by the end of 2016 – matching the date pledged by the U.S. and China, in an article in  the Globe and Mail. The Prime Minister spoke against a backdrop of  two recent reports about Canada’s emissions. The  National Inventory of  Report of GHG Emissions 1990 – 2014 , released by  Environment and Climate Change Canada, is an annual compilation of statistics mandated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It shows that total GHG emissions decreased overall between 2005 and 2014, but have increased by 5.2% from 2009 to 2014. Six provinces’ emissions have declined since 2005, but emissions in  Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland  have increased.    81% of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2014 originated in the energy sector (which the IPCC  broadly defines to include the fossil fuel industry, electricity, industrial production, transportation, agriculture and more).  Emission intensity for the entire economy (GHG per GDP) has declined by 32% since 1990, which the report attributes to “fuel switching, increases in efficiency, the modernization of industrial processes, and structural changes in the economy”.   The French version of the National Inventory Report  is here.

The Conference Board gives Canada a “D” grade overall on three dimensions it measured in its April 21 report:  How Canada Performs: Environmental Report Card  : climate change, air pollution, and freshwater management.  Canada ranks 14th among the 16 peer countries, with only the U.S. and Australia worse.

COP21: Actions of the provincial and federal governments

On November 27, on the eve of COP 21, the Government of British Columbia released the  recommendations of its appointed Climate Leadership Team, summarized in a press release. The recommendations centred on increases to the carbon tax and a 2030 target to reduce emissions across three broad sectors: Built Environment, Industry and Transportation, by 40%, compared to 2007. In a Nov. 30 interview with the CBC, Premier Clark’s response was non-committal and dependent on public consultations in 2016; in an interview with the Globe and Mail on December 9, she stated that B.C.’s position will now depend on national targets. On December 8, British Columbia became the first Canadian jurisdiction to sign on to the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF) – a subnational collaboration between 29 states and provinces from Brazil, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Spain and the United States.  

On November 27, Quebec announced an ambitious GHG emissions reduction target of 37.5% below 1990 levels by 2030, and launched a new social campaign to inspire its citizens. The campaign, Let’s do it for them or Faisons-le pour eux includes further news.

On December 3, on the way to COP21, Manitoba released Manitoba’s Climate Change and Green Economy Action Plan, as well as Green and Growing: Manitoba’s Commitment to Green Jobs, both available here. The plan is wide-ranging, including targets for emissions reductions through enhanced green building standards, green infrastructure investment, greener government operations, and cooperation with Indigenous people. It promises to create 6,000 green jobs in the next five years. Most attention however, focused on the announcement of a cap-and-trade system. Read the CBC News report (Dec. 3) or a summary at the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.
On December 7, the Premiers of Ontario, Québec, and Manitoba signed a new memorandum of understanding signalling their intent to link their respective cap and trade programs under the Western Climate Initiative, the North American carbon market which also includes California.
Both Quebec and British Columbia joined the International Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Alliance – Quebec on December 3, and B.C. on December 10. Members of the Alliance agree to strive to make all new passenger vehicles in their jurisdictions ZEVs by no later than 2050. Also at COP21, the Alliance released a paper by the International Coalition for Clean Transportation, Global Climate Change Mitigation Potential from a Transition to Electric Vehicles.    
The first Compact of States and Regions Disclosure Report was released at COP21 on December 7, listing GHG reduction targets for 2020, 2030 and 2050, as well as progress to date on the targets, and renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. According to the summary press release, the collective goal is to reduce GHG emissions by 12.4 GtC02e by 2030 – greater than China’s current annual output, and 47.4 GtCO2e by 2050 – equal to total world GHG emissions in 2012. The Compact of States and Regions, formed in 2014, now includes Alberta, B.C. Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Ontario, and Quebec among its 44 members.
On the national level, the greatest surprise came when Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced support for the 1.5C target; see the Globe and Mail   (Dec. 6) or “Canada shocks COP21 with Big New Climate Goal” in The National Observer.
Canada also joined 36 other countries including the U.S., Germany, France, Mexico and the UK, in a December 1 communiqué committing to the reform of fossil-fuel subsidies. The communique calls for three key principles: transparency on subsidy policies and reform timetables, ambition in scale and timetable for reforms, and supports to assist in the transition away from subsidies. In November, Oil Change International released  Empty Promises: G20 Subsidies to Oil Gas and Coal Production which estimates that 8 countries – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – spend a combined $80 billion a year on public support for fossil fuel production.