OTTAWA—Environment Canada is projecting that, based on policies in place last November, the country was on pace to miss its reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, pumping out at least 30 per cent more than promised that year.
The projections, which were compiled in February and published online this month, are not a forecast of how emissions will change in the coming years. The report describes the projections more as an educated guess based on policies in place as of Nov. 1, 2016.
The projections don’t factor in technological and regulatory changes after that day, for example, and are “most appropriately viewed as a range of plausible outcomes,” the report says.
The biggest development since Nov. 1 is the unveiling of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, a federal-provincial deal to cut emissions that was inked last December.
Erin Flanagan, director of federal policy for the Pembina Institute, said the report is nonetheless a “red flag,” as it underlines how the government must remain vigilant and committed to cutting emissions that contribute to climate change.
“It is a constant reminder that our job is not done,” Flanagan said.
“Politicians have an unhelpful habit of announcing plans and thinking that the announcement means they can transition to other priorities. We need to see constant engagement from the federal government, and from the provinces and territories.”
According to the Environment Canada projections based on policies as of Nov. 1, Canada will emit between 697 and 790 megatonnes of greenhouse gases in 2030, depending on a range of factors that include oil prices and the rate of economic growth.
Canada’s goal under the Liberal government is to cut emissions to 523 megatonnes in 2030 — a reduction of 30 per cent below 2005 levels.
Mélanie Quesnel, a spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said in an email Monday that the projections in the report don’t include the accelerated phase out of coal by 2030, which was announced in late November. She said the projections also only feature estimated reductions under existing provincial carbon pricing regimes in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
The Liberal government has vowed to bring carbon pricing regimes to all provinces by 2018.
December’s Pan-Canadian Framework included an outline of how the government plans tomeet the 2030 emissions target. The government estimates greenhouse gas output will drop by 89 megatonnes by 2030 because of policies in place before Nov. 1, 2016. Emissions would drop another 86 megatonnes based on new measures in the framework. A remaining 44 megatonnes would be cut based on “additional measures” in the coming years.
It’s that last chunk that leaves Dale Marshall, national program manager with Environmental Defence, feeling skeptical.
“It’s pretty clear that the ‘additional measures’ is a bit of a fudge factor,” Marshall said.
“Whether those come to fruition remain to be seen.”
He added that certain measures the government is committed to pursuing, such as the development of an electric vehicle strategy, could help cut emissions more than the current projections account for. There’s also the possibility that Canada’s incoming carbon pricing regime, which only raises the tax on emissions until 2022, could continue to go up after that, Marshall said.
But if oil prices see a rebound and the industry continues to get projects such as the Trans Mountain pipeline approved, Marshall said it’s certainly possible that Canada will miss its 2030 target.
“They’ve taken steps along the way, and those steps have been generally good,” he said. But he added that “it remains to be seen whether the government is serious about meeting its targets.”