"October 6 News from Up North: Conservatives in Canada Fall Short on Climate Targets; Canadian Wind Outlook Murky"
The Conservatives are falling short on climate change targets, despite committing to spend $9-billion on efforts to meet them in 2010, according to a new report out of the Office of the Auditor General.
The report was filed as part of the 2007 Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, which requires the Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to assess the government’s progress towards meeting the goals outlined in Kyoto.
Predictably, the Conservatives, who do not support the international accord, got a failing grade.
“Canada is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. In fact, the government has lowered the bar in what it hopes to achieve,” commissioner Scott Vaughan says.
The report shows that Canada’s emissions totaled 734 million tonnes in 2008, 31 per cent higher than the Kyoto target. Similarly, emissions reduction targets have dropped 90 per cent from 282 million tonnes to 28 million tonnes in 2010.
Long-term prospects for wind energy in Canada are uncertain despite a banner year in 2011, an industry body said on Wednesday, blaming provincial governments for failing to set renewable-energy goals beyond 2016.
Only two provinces, Ontario and Nova Scotia, have laid out a vision for wind energy development after 2016, said Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
That is a problem as developers need to start work on projects several years in advance. In addition, targets in Ontario, the biggest wind energy market in Canada, could be scrapped if the ruling Liberal Party loses a provincial election on Thursday.
“Any discussion about wind energy being a niche technology is now behind us,” Hornung said in a presentation at the association’s annual conference in Vancouver.
“The challenge is how do we create a long-term, stable wind-energy market in Canada,” he said.
The European Union should be allowed to force all airlines to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions whenever they land or take off from European airports, a top adviser to the bloc’s highest court said Thursday.
The advocate general’s opinion — which judges at the European Court of Justice usually follow — represents a major victory for European regulators, who have sought to lead the world in efforts to curb climate change. The push to include global airlines in its Emissions Trading System, which already covers other heavy industries, is Europe’s boldest move yet in that direction.
The opinion also deals a significant blow to the global airline industry’s effort to avoid being forced, starting Jan. 1, into a system that it argues will be ineffective in cutting carbon emissions and only lead to higher ticket prices.
Carriers in the United States have been joined by those in China and the Middle East in opposing the European system, and governments of other countries, including Russia and India, have hinted at retaliation if the E.U. plan goes into force. The critics also have suggested that some of the money the airlines must spend on carbon permits will end up subsidizing cash-strapped European governments, rather than on climate protection.
With nations facing gaping shortfalls meeting pledges on climate change, several governments and activist groups are pushing to put a price on shipping emissions to fund aid to poor countries.
Commercial ships virtually always run on fossil fuels and produce nearly three percent of the world’s carbon emissions blamed for climate change — twice as much as Australia — but are unregulated under the Kyoto Protocol.
Shipping has come under renewed focus in UN-led talks on a post-Kyoto framework which are coincidentally being held in Panama, whose flag flies on 20 percent of the world’s merchant vessels and is home to the vital canal.
Germany has spearheaded the idea of setting a price on shipping emissions and devoting proceeds to the new Green Climate Fund, which aims to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in aid to low-lying islands and other poor nations seen as most vulnerable to climate change.
The money has been in question with top donors Japan, the European Union and the United States all facing internal challenges. Experts say the world is also far off from the UN-enshrined target of limiting warming to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent climate change’s worst consequences.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today defended President Obama’s record on the environment amid deepening criticism from green allies over a 2008 campaign promise to “end the tyranny of oil.”
“It’s like moving the Titanic,” Salazar said of the administration’s effort to work with Congress to build a “new energy framework.”
“Notwithstanding that, we have made a lot of progress,” he said. “As a U.S. senator, I remember using the statistic of our imports of 70 percent of oil from other countries. Today, our imports are down to less than 50 percent, the last figure I saw.”
Salazar said Obama has moved the U.S. out of the “Hummer Age” — referring to the gas-guzzing General Motors-made SUV — by imposing sweeping new fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and promoting new technologies that allow some cars and trucks to run solely on renewable energy.
“I think that when the environmental community looks at what it is we’ve done to transform the energy reality, the energy future of the United States, I think they ought to say we’ve done a pretty good job,” he said.
The comments came as the administration tangles with environmental activists over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run from Canada to the Texas gulf coast.
Five coastal states are determined to clean up the damaged Gulf of Mexico ecosystem after last year’s oil spill highlighted how decades of contamination and deterioration had placed a backbone of the U.S. economy at risk of ruin, according to a federal report released Wednesday.
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force’s preliminary report pinpointed challenges, priorities and strategies for the five states — Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama — working with the backing of several federal agencies to restore and preserve the Gulf Coast. The task force was established by President Barack Obama after BP’s catastrophic oil spill last year.
“One of the results of all the meetings is a real sense of urgency,” EPA chief Lisa Jackson told The AP. “Person after person came in and said `we’re losing the Gulf.’ None of it is irreversible, but the longer we wait, the harder it will be.”
The task force provided The Associated Press a copy of its executive summary before the preliminary report’s official release Wednesday. A public comment period will last until late October and a final report will be presented to Obama in December.