Emissions: The 3E's


Focus today is on the three e's: environment, economy and energy. There are three key messages:

1. Carbon dioxide emissions are up almost 11 per cent from 1990, add all greenhouse gases and it's more like 12.6 to 13.7 per cent. Emissions are up because Canada is doing nothing to prevent it.

2. Emissions can come down if Canada does something about it. Voluntary programs don't cut it.

3. Bringing emissions down will not destroy the Canadian economy, or life as we know it. The solution is simple: change the way we make electricity and redesign vehicles.

Why are emissions up?

Oil and gas, vehicles and electricity

Oil and gas production

Between 1990 and 1995, increased production and exports in the oil and gas sector were the largest factor contributing to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Production increased 35 per cent, while exports doubled. Carbon dioxide and methane emissions stem from the large amounts of energy and electricity used to produce, process and ship oil and natural gas for domestic use and exports. Upstream refining also consumes large amounts of electricity, which in Alberta is coal-fired, also increasing demand and emissions of carbon dioxide.

The trend holds for 1996. According to the British Petroleum Statistical Review 1997, Canadian production of oil and natural gas increased 2.4% from 1995 to 1996 for oil and 3.2% for natural gas. Since 1990, BP reports that natural gas production has increased 54 per cent. Since 1990, oil production has increased 23.7 per cent.

Vehicle sales - Statistics Canada

Vehicles are becoming more powerful and less fuel efficient. Vehicles are being driven longer distances. Also, according to Statistics Canada, truck sales which include minivans, sport utility vehicles, light and heavy trucks, vans, coaches and buses, have been on the rise since mid-1995 and are 25.7 per cent higher than August 1996. StatsCan reports that "consumer preferences for minivans and sport utility vehicles have shifted truck sales into high gear. In the early 1990s, trucks represented about a third of the market share in new motor vehicle sales. In August (1997), they accounted for slightly under half of all sales."

New passenger car sales are 17.3 per cent of August 1996. Passenger car sales declined from the mid-1980s until early 1996 when they began to rise.

In addition, improved vehicle technology has lowered methane and nitrogen oxide emissions , but three-way catalytic converters have increased nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas 320 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Electricity production

Nuclear production continues to be a problem in both Ontario and New Brunswick. The announcement at Ontario Hydro in August 1997 that it would shut 7 nuclear units over the next several months, in fact extends shut downs and reduced capacity utilization already in effect. Ontario Hydro emitted 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 1995 and 18.1 million tonnes in 1996.

What's the problem?

The first E, the economy:

The economy is growing and so is population. But that shouldn't automatically imply growth in energy use and pollution. In fact, in the 80s after the Oil Shocks North America proved it could decouple enonomic growth from energy growth. That process has slowed and reversed somewhat, it's time to get into gear again on energy efficiency. The same decoupling has to happen with population growth. Improvements in energy efficiency and the introduction of renewable energy have to outpace economic and population growth. We need a doubling in improvements in energy efficiency from about 1 per cent a year to at least two per cent a year.

We're not making these improvements because Canada is suffering from an identity crisis, so the wrong departments are in charge of climate change.

What's needed?

Government has not caught up to the reality of today's economy. Natural Resources Canada is stuck in the 1950s, and still thinks natural resources run the Canadian economy. Wake up Ralph Goodale, it's the 90s. Today's economy is generating more than $700 billion a year in gross domestic product. More than 70 per cent of that GDP comes from services, just over 22 per cent from industry and just over 4 per cent from agriculture. Thirty per cent of GDP comes from exports and of that amount only 30 per cent of exports are considered resource based and energy intensive. Export growth is coming from Ontario and Quebec from manufacturered goods and telecommunications, not trees, minerals and oil. The outdated vision of Canada means that Natural Resources Canada is defending old industries at the expense of the rest of the economy.

Despite continued growth in emissions, Natural Resources Minister, Ralph Goodale, recently told industry that "Voluntary is a better approach to problem solving than command and control. But it must be significantly enhanced. We're counting on you to prove voluntary action can deliver. Time is running short. The more we can accomplish voluntarily, the less need for other options. Voluntary is the preferred way to go."

Voluntary is not the way to go. In fact, it is the voluntary approach that will hurt Canada's economy in the long run. Between 1990 and 1995, per capita emissions increased from 20 tonnes/per capita of greenhouse gases to 21 tonnes/per capita. Greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of gross domestic product increased from 805 kg per thousand (1994$) in 1990 to 816 kg per thousand 1994$ dollars. That is, improvements in energy efficiency are not keeping pace with economic growth - Canada is becoming less efficient, not more and carbon dioxide intensity levels are not improving. In a country dependent on exports for economic growth, it's critical that we meet the needs of our customers. Japan, the European Union and the United States are our major customers and each will soon be operating under carbon restrictions. These countries will want products that are energy efficienct, they will want advanced technologies that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Inaction is the threat to our economy, not action.

The message for the department of Finance:

Knock, knock Paul. Behind door number three is the environment. Surpluses must now be invested in positioning Canada for the new millenium: education, health and environment must be the top priorities. The focus: innovation and creativitiy. Canada can reduce its emissions, we have the talent, we have the expertise, and now we need the strategic incentives.

The second E: energy

The next federal budget must include:

1. The establishment of National Atmospheric Fund which would invest in energy efficiency retrofits in buildings in the residential, small industrial and commercial and municipal sectors. The Fund would focus on providing the resources for project development and facilitating financing. A portion of the Funds could be used to securitize loans against defaults to ensure financing. The Fund could operate on a fee for service basis which would be paid for from energy savings. The Fund could also launch a National Green Communities program which would finance energy audits in the residential sector. The aim would be to have the fund self financing within five years.

2. Provide tax incentives to encourage the purchase of the most energy efficiency products. The Finance minister could start with a tax incentive or rebate on the purchase of high-efficiency windows. Tax incentives or rebates could also be used to encourage the purchase of Green Power and advanced technology vehicles. Companies committing to purchasing 10 per cent of their electricity and vehicles for their fleets that are renewable and advanced could qualifty for a credit to offset some of the higher costs of the initial purchases. The incentive could sunset after 5 years or once a certain percentage increase has been achieved. The target would be set at the level needed to reduce the cost of these new technologies by 25 to 50 per cent.

3. Negotiate with the provinces to ensure that electricity trade and competitive markets are regulated to ensure investments in renewable energy technologies, cogeneration in industry and energy efficiency. If negotiations fail, set a national cap and launch an emissions trading program. Three quarters of Alberta's coal plants turn over in the next 20 years. Ontario is facing a nuclear crisis. Both provinces have an opportunity to make completitive electricity markets work for the environment: natural gas, renewables and efficiency, not coal.

These investments would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but would contribute to reduced air pollution causing acid rain, smog and health problems further reducing health care and environmental damage costs. Finally, these investments are where the jobs are. A study by Sierra Club for the Climate Action Network showed that these kind of investments could create up to 1.5 million person years of work by 2010.

Industry Canada should:

1. Give car manufacturers seven years to introduce advanced technology vehicles in Canada. By 2005, 10 per cent of new vehicle sales should be battery electric, fuel cell electric and fly wheel hybrids which eliminate or vastly reduce emissions from vehicles. Industry Canada must set a target and timetable for introduciton of these vehicles in Canada. Industry Canada then must put resources into the R&D, demonstration and procurement policies needed to reduce costs.

2. Focus the Technology Partnership Fund on investments that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and market them domestically and abroad.

The third E: the environment

Finally, we need the Prime Minister to give Christine Stewart a mandate to sign on to real reductions in greenhouse gases in Kyoto Japan this December. Only legally binding commitments that set reduction targets of up to 20 per cent by 2005 will provide the incentive needed to get Canada moving.

And move we must. We are facing a climate emergency and no one sees the flashing light.

Greenhouse gas emissions have to be cut by 60 per cent globally no later than 2020 if we are to avoid a doubling in the atmosphere by around 2050. That's within the lifetime of our children. Temperature increases, more extreme weather, new diseases, forest fires and water shortages all predicted if carbon dioxide concentrations double in the atmosphere. A doubling must be avoided.

Climate change is happening today. It was a factor in the Manitoba floods, the Saguenay floods, the warming in northwestern Canada that's three times the global rate. Mark my words, El Nino is the Antarctic ozone hold of climate change. El Nino is a major global system for transporting heat and it is reacting to the additional heat loading it is dealing with. Within five years I predict an explosion of scientific understanding around the impact of global warming on El Nino.


Several weeks ago in a speech in Calgary, Minister Goodale told his audience: "Canada is determined to do our part as responsible global citizens."

I agree. It's time Canada stopped whining and looking for excuses. It's time Canada took responsibility for its contribution to climate change. It's time Canada put its innovate and creative mind to work on solving the problem and protecting the earth's climate system for our children. It's our responsibility as parents. And it starts today.