Canada’s 2020 emissions reduction target won’t be reached

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Canada likely will not achieve its 2020 emissions reduction target with the suite of policies and programs currently being implemented.

This is the main conclusion of the 2011 analysis by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) of the latest Government of Canada Kyoto Implementation Plan, published on June 2, 2011 pursuant to the 2007 Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act (KPIA).

Under the Act, NRTEE must carry out an independent assessment of the government's annual plans within 60 days of their publication.

The NRTEE analysis says Environment Canada's integrated modelling in the latest KITA Plan provides an improved basis for estimating emissions and emissions reductions attributable to federal programs and policies. As well, the 2011 Plan shows improved transparency in the data and methodologies presented.

However, using the KPIA integrated modelling forecasts as well as the government's 2020 forecast the NTREE analysis concludes Canada will likely not achieve its Kyoto target through domestic emissions reductions.

Furthermore, it concludes some emission reduction estimates publicly stated for individual certain measures do not provide sufficient justification for the reference case assumptions used in the estimates.

The analysis suggests these assumptions significantly overestimate projected emissions reductions for some individual measures and there are marked inconsistencies between the integrated modelling and the measure-by-measure estimates in the Plan.

All in all, the package of climate policies the federal government has adopted will likely have only half the emission reduction impacts claimed when each policy was introduced, the analysis suggests.

While some differences should be expected, says NTREE, the size of the discrepancy between the integrated modelling and the measure-by-measure projections is a matter of concern.

NRTEE believes there is value in broadening the process of evaluation to include longer-term assessments.

'Over the longer term, similar kinds of transparent processes for comparing expected and actual emissions reduction from government programs and policies can help Canada track its progress as it seeks to achieve its 2020 emissions reductions target,' says the report.

Figure 3 below shows the KPIA integrated modelling forecasts as well as the government's 2020 forecasts.

Within the Kyoto period, it highlights projected emissions with and without federal programs and policies. The difference between these two trajectories is the projected emissions reductions attributable to federal policies.

As the integrated modelling in the Plan indicates, Canada will likely not achieve its Kyoto target through domestic emissions reductions. The figure also highlights the government's longer-term forecasts, both excluding government policy, and including both federal and provincial measures.

Commenting on the NTREE report in a Calgary Herald article, Clare Demerse, director of climate change at the Pembina Institute, noted 'While the report does make note of some improvements to transparency since last year, there's clearly still a long way to go.'

'Sadly, the bottom line from this report is that Canada's current climate policies are far too weak to reach our national target for cutting greenhouse gas pollution. That's not a new message, but it's a critically important one,' she added.

The NRTEE analysis makes the following recommendations:

1. To improve the consistency between the integrated modelling estimates and measure-by-measure estimates of emissions reductions, the NRTEE recommends that consistent, reliable, and substantiated assumptions be used to define the reference case across all estimates.

In particular, if the reference case assumption is that none of the mitigating actions would have occurred in the absence of the policy, the Plan should present sufficient evidence to substantiate this assumption.

This recommendation applies in particular for the ecoENERGY for Renewable Power, ecoENERGY for Buildings and Houses, ecoENERGY for Industry, and Pulp and Paper Green Transformation programs.

2. To acquire additional evidence regarding the effectiveness of policies and programs, the NRTEE recommends the government implement additional ex-post (after the fact) policy evaluations.

Studies like the analysis implemented by Natural Resources Canada to explore the actual emissions reductions realized from the ecoENERGY Retrofit Initiative can provide valuable insights as to how the policy has performed historically.

3. To help Canada continue to be accountable to its emissions reductions objectives, the NRTEE recommends the government continue to broaden its public process for evaluating its climate policies over the long term.  The government should continue to publish updated forecasts as it implements new policies and programs and moves toward long-term emissions reductions.

4. To move forward with a coordinated Canadian climate strategy, the NRTEE recommends that consideration be given to how federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal policies can be better coordinated to complement and reinforce current and future efforts.

The Conservative Government has consistently maintained that Canada would not meet its Kyoto targets, arguing that an international climate change agreement that includes commitments by all the world's major greenhouse gas emitters is the only way to achieve real reductions in global emissions.

The NTREE analysis is available here

Conference sessions at GLOBE 2012 taking place March 14-16, 2012 in Vancouver will explore North America's climate and carbon emission policies and initiatives, and will showcase examples of organizations that are succeeding in business, despite the existing uncertainties in the policy landscape.

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