En­vi­ron­ment min­is­ters dis­cuss car­bon-cut­ting strate­gies at meet­ing

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Canada’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ters were meet­ing on Fri­day in an ef­fort to ne­go­ti­ate a na­tional car­bon-cut­ting strat­egy to meet the coun­try’s am­bi­tious in­ter­na­tional tar­gets.

Pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial min­is­ters ar­rived Thurs­day for talks with fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna, in ad­vance of a full­blown first min­is­ter’s con­fer­ence with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau ten­ta­tively set for the first week of March.

It’s the first min­is­te­rial meet­ing on the cli­mate file in al­most a decade, a pe­riod dur­ing which provinces have each pur­sued their own cli­mate poli­cies in the ab­sence of an over-arch­ing na­tional plan.

At a UN-spon­sored sum­mit last month in Paris, the new Lib­eral govern­ment - in con­sul­ta­tion with the provinces - agreed with nearly 200 coun­tries to limit global warm­ing to below two de­grees Cel­sius by mid-cen­tury.

A new re­port this week from the Ivey Busi­ness School at Western Univer­sity lays out the scale of the chal­lenge Cana­dian gov­ern­ments have set them­selves.

While Canada emits just 1.6 per cent of global green­house gases, the coun­try is in the top three for the amount of emis­sions per per­son.

Cana­di­ans, per capita, pro­duced about 20.6 tonnes of GHGs in 2012, says the re­port from for­mer se­nior fed­eral civil ser­vant Paul Boothe, com­pared with a global av­er­age of 6.2 tonnes per capita. A United Na­tions re­search group says that in or­der to meet the Paris tem­per­a­ture tar­get, cit­i­zens glob­ally must be down to per capita GHG emis­sions of just 1.7 tonnes by the year 2050.

The pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment set a 2030 tar­get of re­duc­ing Canada’s emis­sions 30 per cent from 2005 lev­els by 2030, a tar­get adopted “as a floor” by the in­com­ing Lib­er­als. Sev­eral provinces, mean­while, have set their own re­duc­tion tar­gets.

The re­port, “By The Num­bers: Cana­dian GHG Emis­sions,” states that “even if all provinces achieved their an­nounced or proxy tar­gets, Canada would still face a gap of about 45 Mt (mega­tonnes) in 2020 and 55 Mt in 2030.”

Cli­mate skep­tics like to point out that Canada’s rel­a­tively small con­tri­bu­tion to global lev­els of car­bon diox­ide means any Cana­dian re­duc­tions will have a neg­li­gi­ble global im­pact. Ad­vo­cates counter that cli­mate change poses the clas­sic dilemma of the com­mons: If a wealthy, in­dus­tri­al­ized, self-re­spect­ing in­ter­na­tional ci­ti­zen like Canada - with one of the high­est stan­dards of liv­ing on the planet - won’t do its part, then how can de­vel­op­ing na­tions be con­vinced to curb emis­sions?

The Cana­dian Cli­mate Ac­tion Net­work, a coali­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, says the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial min­is­ters could cre­ate a mil­lion new jobs with an ag­gres­sive green agenda - pow­ered by al­most $81 bil­lion in govern­ment spend­ing over the next five years. And even that stag­ger­ing out­lay doesn’t ad­dress the wide re­gional dif­fer­ences pre­sented by dif­fer­ent economies within Canada.

“Sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges lie ahead for Canada as it works to meet its GHG emis­sion tar­gets and those chal­lenges par­al­lel the ones faced by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” Boothe and co-au­thor Felix Boudreault say in the con­clu­sion to their re­port.

“Find­ing ways to equitably share the bur­den of GHG emis­sion re­duc­tions and prac­ti­cal mech­a­nisms to al­low re­gional and na­tional economies to tran­si­tion to a low-car­bon world will test the in­ge­nu­ity and will of political lead­ers at home and abroad.”

CP PHOTO

Sur­rounded by her pro­vin­cial coun­ter­parts, Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Cather­ine McKenna speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence fol­low­ing their meet­ings Fri­day.

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