Canada needs a national price on carbon to meet emissions target: report

Days before Environment Minister Catherine McKenna meets with her provincial counterparts, a leading environmental group has released a report detailing how the provinces are doing and what they need to improve upon to meet their emissions targets.

The report, titled Race to the Front, says that some provinces have made progress reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, but Canada’s emissions in 2014 were only two per cent lower than they were in 2005.

“Canada is not on track to achieve its 2020 emissions reduction goal under the Copenhagen Accord, nor its 2030 climate target,” the report says.

The Pembina Institute report also says Canada is failing to take advantage of the global clean technology sector, having seen its global market share decrease by 41 per cent between 2005 and 2014.

Yet, it’s not all bad news. The report says some regions have significantly reduced their carbon emissions over the same time period: Atlantic Canada has reduced emissions by 22 per cent; Ontario by 19 per cent; Quebec by eight per cent; and British Columbia by four per cent.

Unsurprisingly, the provinces whose emissions increased the most between 2004 and 2014 are the jurisdictions that rely heavily on resource industries: Alberta’s emissions rose by 18 per cent; Saskatchewan’s by eight per cent; and Manitoba’s by four per cent.

The report says that half of Canada’s emissions currently come from two sectors: oil and gas, and transportation.

Tough long road ahead

The institute welcomes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s policy goal of crafting a national climate change strategy, for the first time in the country’s history, but says to get there Canada’s national policy on climate change will have to be ambitious.

The report has key recommendations for McKenna and the provincial environment ministers to consider when they have their annual meeting next week in Montreal.

  • Accelerate Canada’s coal-fired power phase-out plans to ensure that by 2050 electricity in Canada is zero-emitting.
  • Craft a pan-Canadian electrification strategy to create jobs and cut emissions.
  • Implement a low-emission standard for all fuel sold in Canada and require vehicle manufacturers to ensure an escalating percentage of vehicles produced each year have zero or near zero emissions.
  • Reduce emissions in buildings, currently responsible for 12 per cent of Canada’s annual emissions, by encouraging energy retrofits and imposing strict environmental regulations on new buildings.
  • Ensure a national carbon pricing strategy is in place and applies to all sources of emissions that can be accurately measured.

The report says that Canada is now living in a “clean growth century” and points to estimates that by 2040 fossil fuel development is expected to attract only $2.1 trillion in investment compared with $7.8 trillion for renewable energy industries.

“To achieve these economic goals, Canada’s governments must accelerate climate policy progress and invest in infrastructure that supports long-term decarbonization,” the report concludes.

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