Canada has not complied with its Kyoto commitments and is not likely to meet its 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a report issued by the country's environment watchdog on Tuesday.
Scott Vaughan, Canada's commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, said the Canadian government is not even close to reaching the Kyoto target of reducing GHG emissions to an average of 6 percent below their 1990 level from 2008 to 2012.
Although Canada withdrew from its Kyoto Protocol commitments last December, federal legislation passed in 2007 to implement the 1997 protocol is still in effect and the Canadian environment department has been responsible for preparing annual climate change plans since 2007.
In its 2011 plan, Environment Canada reported that actual GHG emission reductions in 2008 and 2009 were six million tons, well below the 282 million ton target identified in 2007. To meet the Kyoto target, GHG emissions would have to be cut further by 805 million tons this year, said the commissioner's report.
Canada is also unlikely to meet its 2020 target of reducing GHG emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels, according to the environment commissioner. "Environment Canada's own forecast shows that in 2020, Canada's emissions will be 7 percent above the 2005 level, not 17 percent below it," he said.
The Canadian government plans to achieve its 2020 target through sector-by-sector regulation of GHG emissions. While two regulations are in place for the transportation sector, which is the largest emitter, the environment commissioner's audit found that regulations proposed in 2010 for the electricity sector - the third-largest emitter - are not expected to take effect until 2015. No regulations are in place for Canada's oil and gas sector, the second-largest emitter responsible for one-fifth of emissions in 2005.
Although existing federal regulations are expected to lower emissions by 11 to 13 million tons in 2020, an additional reduction of 178 million tons is needed to meet the target, said the commissioner's report. It noted that since regulations are complex and can take up to five years to develop and result in GHG reductions, "it is unlikely that the regulatory approach will contribute emission reductions that are sufficient to meet the 2020 target."
Responding to the report, Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent said the country's GHG emissions have declined in almost all sectors, including oil and gas, and electricity generation, since 2005. "Between 2009 and 2010, our emissions remained virtually steady despite economic growth of 3.2 percent," he said.
However, the commissioner's report found that the Canadian government had no detailed plan on how different regulations would work together to meet the 2020 target, and had not analyzed how much the regulatory approach would cost the Canadian economy.