Canada announced Friday that it was committing to a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030, an announcement that comes in the lead-up to the United Nations’ international climate talks at the end of this year.
Under the new commitment, Canada will cut its emissions down to 515 metric megatons by 2030, Bloomberg reports. In 2013, the country’s emissions totaled 726 metric megatons, and in 2005 — the baseline year Canada uses in its new commitment — its emissions totaled 731 metric megatons.
In addition, Canada announced Friday its “intention to develop new regulatory measures” for the oil, gas, and chemical industries. Though the country didn’t make any firm commitments in its oil and gas sector, it said it intended to develop regulations “aligned with recently proposed actions in the United States to reduce the potent GHG methane from the oil-and-gas sector,” along with regulations for natural gas-fired electricity.
Canada’s Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq called the commitment “fair and ambitious,” and said that it and the intended regulations “underscore our continued commitment to cut emissions at home and work with our international partners to establish an international agreement in Paris that includes meaningful and transparent commitments from all major emitters.”
Some environmental groups, however, weren’t so happy about the announcement. Though Canada’s pledge included plans to start implementing new regulations on its oil and gas industry, groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council said they wished the country had made a more concrete commitment to addressing emissions from the tar sands — the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, according to the Pembina Institute.
“Canada’s climate target is less-than-meets-the-eye and another disappointing sign of its reluctance to fight climate change,” Danielle Droitsch, Canada project director at the NRDC, said in a statement. “Yet again, Canada blithely ignores addressing its largest source of climate pollution — its tar sands oil development.”
The NRDC also called Canada’s commitment “significantly weaker” than that of the United States. The U.S. made a commitment earlier this year to reduce its emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Historically, Canada’s pledges have lined up with the United States’, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper said earlier this year that it was “unlikely” that Canada’s targets would be the same as the United States’.
The NRDC noted that Canada’s pledges were also concerning because, as of now, the country isn’t on track to meet its 2020 emissions reductions targets. Last year, a report found that without significant new policies, Canada wouldn’t meet its Copenhagen Accord target to reduce its emissions 17 percent by 2020, compared to 2005 levels.
Climate activist group 350.org told RTCC that, if Canada’s government doesn’t scale back on its tar sands development immediately, it wouldn’t be able to meet its new emissions reductions goals.
“These targets are a nice gesture, but for now that’s all they are, because the numbers here simply don’t add up,” Canadian spokesman for 350.org Cameron Fenton said. “Scientists have told us over and over that averting climate disaster means leaving virtually all tar sands in the ground; and until our government starts taking real steps to achieve that, these announcements are little more than pie-in-the-sky.”
Prime Minister Harper has come under fire during his eight years in office for his pro-tar sands and anti-environmental policies. According to a report from earlier this year, Canada could get 100 percent of its electricity from low-carbon sources like wind, solar, and hydropower by 2035 and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. But that’s only if the federal government takes strong action on climate change, and if Harper’s past policies are a guide, that isn’t likely in the near future.
Canada does have a federal election coming up in October, however, so the prospect of federal action on climate change could soon change. And the recent election of a left-wing government in Alberta could mean more regulations on the tar sands industry in the province.