It's time for the federal Government to walk the talk

"Commitments are only as strong as our will to fulfil them."

This quote graced the cover of the promotional material distributed in mid-October 1996 as a newspaper insert summarizing the Liberal Government's Record of Achievement: A Report on the Liberal Government's 36 months in office.

On the back page of the summary:

"As stated in the Red Book, your Liberal government has:

"Taken an international leadership role to reduce the causes of global climate change...."

Yet, in A Record of Achievement (page 63), the Liberals acknowledge that their commitments on climate change have not been met.

"A Liberal government will work with provincial and urban governments to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energies, with the aim of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent from 1988 levels by the year 2005."

The explanation:

"Many tools to change energy consumption rest with provincial governments and municipalities. Federal and provincial ministers of energy and environment have adopted a more modest national target of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2000. Together, they produced the first National Action Program on Climate Change.

"The federal government has developed the Voluntary Challenge and Registry, introduced in February 1995, to encourage voluntary greenhouse gas reductions in the public and private sectors. Over 500 private companies have registered to date, covering 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions originating from industrial and business activity. They account for 80 per cent of emissions from the petroleum sector, and 95 per cent of emissions from chemical production.

"In addition to the energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives listed above, the government has funded the 20 Per Cent Club, a network of municipalities committed to the 20 per cent reduction target.

"However, despite these efforts, without further initiatives, the latest available forecast is that Canada's greenhouse gas emissions will remain at 13 per cent above 1990 levels in 2000."

At the October 25-27, 1996 Convention of the Liberal Party held in Ottawa, the Environment Committee put forward to the floor a motion which was passed as a priority resolution. The Convention was widely known to have been orchestrated from the Prime Minister's office. That is, no motions would have come to the floor without prior approval. The motion says:

"BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Liberal Party of Canada reaffirm its commitment to meet the Red Book target of a 20 per cent reduction below 1988 levels by the year 2005, beginning with the fulfilment of the government's international commitment to stabilize CO2 emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000;

"BE IT RESOLVED that further CO2 reductions may be necessary beyond the year 2005 if the impacts of climate change on the Canadian environment and Canadian resources, such as the Boreal forest, are to be minimized;

"BE IT RESOLVED that the gravity of the situation requires the federal government to immediately develop a comprehensive action plan, based on prudent assumptions, to ensure CO2 emissions are stabilized at 1990 levels by the year 2000;

"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada urges the federal government to act to realize the job creation benefits and C02 reductions derived from investment in energy efficiency."

National Liberal Caucus

Reprinted by Sierra Club of Canada
December 2, 1996

Greenhouse gas emissions - what's happening?

Greenhouse gas emissions have increased from 569 Mt in 1990 to 623.5 Mt in 1995, an increase of 9.5 per cent. There has been a net growth in total greenhouse gas emissions of about 54 Mt.

Carbon dioxide accounts for 81 per cent of Canada's total emissions, but contributed only 72 per cent to the 1990-1995 increase. In contrast, methane emissions, which contribute 12 per cent to total emissions, account for fully 22 per cent of the 1990-95 increase.

The petroleum industry, which contributes about 16 per cent to total emissions, accounted for fully 31 per cent of the increase in emissions between 1990 and 1995, and the heavy industry sector accounted for 18 per cent of the emissions increase, compared with its 13 per cent contribution to total emissions.

Emissions growth in the oil and gas industry was the single most dynamic factor in the change in Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions over the 1990-1995 period. Export driven output growth, increased upstream emissions from gas stripping processes and electricity demand were all major contributors to the increase, and more than offset the very significant decrease in the amount of producer energy consumption required per unit of production. Between 1990 and 1995, production increased by 35 per cent while exports doubled.

On a provincial basis, Alberta stands out with a 19 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 1995. Obviously, the heavy representation of the oil and gas sector in this province's economy is a key contributor to this growth.

By combining the emissions from personal automobiles, vans and light trucks, with the energy related emissions from household energy for space and water heating and appliances, we can get an idea of the emissions that are directly related to household energy consumption. The total represents about 25 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and, while it is not growing disproportionately, it is growing. Between 1990 and 1995 direct household emissions accounted for 22 per cent of the net increase in all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Source: Environment Canada and Reviewing the Progress made under Canada's National Action Program on Climate Change, Resources Future International, et al, November 1996.

For more information, contact:

Louise Comeau
Sierra Club of Canada

Robert Hornung
Pembina Institute

December 2, 1996

The Gap - slight of hand

Projections of greenhouse gas emissions are developed by Natural Resources Canada (energy related emissions) and Environment Canada (non-energy emissions).

Until recently, projections were that greenhouse gas emissions in Canada would be 13 per cent above 1990 levels by the year 2000. The most recent projection projects that Canada will be 8 per cent above 1990 levels by the year 2000.

Projections are based on assumptions regarding economic and population growth, fuel mix and the impact of actions such a energy efficiency regulations. The most current projection should not be interpreted to mean that Canada's Voluntary Challenge and Registry Program is working, therefore Canada need do no more. In fact, the opposite interpretation would be wise. The latest projection squeezes the most it possibly can from assuming that the upstream oil and gas sector (the most heavily represented in the VCR) fully implements actions to capture leaking methane.

The Base Case

Assumes "without programs". Population growth: 12 per cent by 2000; 22 per cent by 2010. Real per capita GDP: up 20 per cent by 2000; 48 per cent by 2010; 83 per cent by 2020.

By the year 2000, emissions in this forecast are 14 per cent above their 1990 level, representing a gap of some 81 Mt CO2-equivalent relative to the stabilization target. The gap is forecast to continue to grow beyond 2000, with emissions reaching 130 per cent of 1990 levels by 2010 and 150 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020.

By the year 2000, emissions growth in the petroleum sector accounts for 37 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions growth in Canada, heavy industry for 14 per cent and passenger and freight transportation a combined 26 per cent for a total of 77 per cent of the forecast gap in 2000. In contrast, the Residential and Commercial buildings sectors, which contributed 21 per cent of total emissions in 1990, contribute only 11 per cent of the forecast emissions growth over the 1990-2000 period.

Impact of the National Action Program

Reference Case: includes impact of measures in the NAPCC, particularly the Voluntary Challenge and Registry.

According to the consultant's report by Resources Futures International (RFI), "Barring a major economic downturn, a sudden large rise in fuel prices, or immediate and aggressive action by senior levels of government, Canada will not achieve its short-term stabilization commitment. Based on Natural Resources Canada's assessment of the effect of NAPCC initiatives, total GHG emissions in 2000 will be on the order of 8 per cent higher than they were in 1990. The exact percentage is sensitive to assumptions about economic growth rates, especially for some key industries, about the rates of energy efficiency improvements, and about the rates of emission reductions, specifically in upstream oil and gas.

According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), member companies have reported in their 1996 submissions to the Voluntary Challenge that actions taken in 1995 (as well as actions planned for post-1995) will reduce upstream methane emissions by approximately 1 Mt. Natural Resources Canada is projecting a 12 Mt reduction in methane emissions by 2000 from thes entire sector. Clearly, the government has put an optimistic spin on the potential contribution of the VCR to closing Canada's stabilization gap.

Even if all companies move to reduce methane emissions, this is a one-time opportunity that won't generate reductions beyond 2000. In fact, projections for 2010 and 2020 suggest greenhouse gas emissions in Canada could be 12.3 per cent above 1990 levels in 2005, 16.5 per cent above 1990 levels in 2010 and 34 per cent above 1990 levels in 2020.

"Over the longer term, the projections of the Basic Case and the Reference Case become more uncertain and more sensitive to assumptions about progress in energy efficiency, energy prices, and rates and composition of economic growth. based on the projections and the modest reductions in emissions forecast for each of the sectors, it is highly unlikely that Canada's GHG emissions will stabilize in the years following 2000. With NAPCC programs, Canadian GHG emissions in 2020 are predicted to be 34 per cent higher than in 1990, and increasing. Natural Resources Canada projects increases in emissions from all sectors by 2020 with the exception of the residential sector where a 38 per cent reduction in energy use per household more than offsets the increase in number of households (due to higher efficiency standards)."

Source: Reviewing the progress made under Canada's National Action Program on Climate Change, RFI, et al, November 1996.

For more information, contact:

Louise Comeau
Sierra Club of Canada

Robert Hornung
Pembina Institute

December 2, 1996

Don't look to Canada for international leadership on climate change

Signatories to the Framework Convention on Climate Change resume negotiations in Geneva from December 9 to 18, 1996. This session is seen as the last opportunity for exploring ideas before hard bargaining on a protocol begins in March 1997 in Bonn, Germany. The protocol is to define next-step commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions after the year 2000 negotiated by the Third Conference of the Parties meeting in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 (current commitments to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels only take countries to the year 2000).

In July, Ministers came together at the Second Conference of the Parties and found enough common ground to negotiate a ministerial declaration that included:

"Ministers instruct their representatives to accelerate negotiations on the text of a legally binding protocol or another legal instrument to be completed in due time for adoption at the third session of the Conference of the Parties. The outcome should fully encompass the remit of the Berlin Mandate, in particular:-
commitments for Annex 1 (OECD and East European countries) regarding:


policies and measures including, as appropriate, regarding energy, transport, industry, agriculture, forestry, waste management, economic instruments, institutions and mechanisms (the European Union wants some of these to be implemented through international co-operation, the U.S. is completely opposed);


quantified legally-binding objectives for emission limitations and significant overall reductions within specified timeframes, such as 2005, 2010, 2020, with respect to their anthropogenic (human) emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol (this is what the U.S. wants binding targets and emissions trading. The EU likes carbon taxes better and is not generally supportive of trading);

Canada's Environment Minister, Sergio Marchi was instrumental in chairing the working group of ministers that negotiated this critical text. While Canada is well-known for its willingness to facilitate and to act as broker, it has been unwilling to take a leadership position with respect to a particular reductions target for the post 2000 period.

Despite acknowledging that climate change is happening in Canada (a 1.8 million sq. km. watershed called the Mackenzie Basin in northwest Canada has warmed at three times the global rate over the last 100 years with record forest fires, low lake levels and melting permafrost), Minister Marchi does not have federal Cabinet or provincial backing to fight the onslaught from Alberta and the fossil fuel sector against new commitments for Canada.

In fact, Alberta and the fossil fuel sector (led by Imperial Oil) is arguing that Canada should not sign on to a protocol that includes a legally binding emissions reduction target. Imperial Oil also is arguing that Canada's negotiating delegation should no longer be headed by Environment Canada. Rather, the industrial lobby wants trade representatives to lead Canada's team on this environmental issue.

As a result, until the public weighs in calling for action to protect our health and environment, Canada will argue that it should do less, rather than more, to protect the climate. This strategy is doomed to failure.

1.The Canadian Government will say Canada is a big, cold, natural resource-based, energy intensive country, and our national circumstances should entitle us to lower emission reduction targets than other countries. Canada is dreaming if it thinks international politics will stand for this. As the second largest emitter on a per capita basis, the more likely reality is that Canada will increasingly come under pressure to put BIGGER reductions on the table than other countries.

2.The Canadian Government will seek maximum flexibility which means joint implementation (reductions in other countries but credits against home emissions) and possibly some sort of global trading program. Such a position could mean very low (or even just continued stabilization) targets for every country within Annex 1 with some trading up to some modest higher level.

Climate change is an opportunity and Canada needs to determine how to take advantage of those opportunities. Domestic reduction targets are absolutely critical if Canada is not to be left behind in the technological revolution that will result from actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canada is vulnerable to actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of the structure of our economy and our resistance to change. The energy-intensive, natural resource-based components of our economy do not comprise the entire economy. The oil and gas sector is responsible for 15.4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions; heavy industry 12.9 per cent. Households are responsible for 25 per cent. Commercial, other industry, non-energy related emissions are responsible for more than 40 per cent. Canada has options for reducing emissions in all sectors and these must be pursued to protect our interests at home and internationally.

Canadian negotiators should remember the words of Canada's Environment Minister at July's Second Conference of the Parties:

"Getting our own house in order is a priority for the Canadian government, and it will be guided by principles of openness and transparency. And our international efforts should be no different. After all, when we are addressing climate change, we are talking about a global bottom line. And this bottom line takes precedence over individual credits, debits, and differences between countries. It is time for all of us - governments, industry, environmental groups, and citizens - to do better.
"Failure cannot, and must not be an option."