National Post

Climate goal would kill every car

Current measures not enough to reach targets

- Yadullah Hussain

Canada will have to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 208 million tonnes — the equivalent of taking every gas- and diesel- powered car and truck off the road — in order to keep its climate commitment­s, according to a report by Parliament­ary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Frechette.

The recent slew of measures introduced by Ottawa and the provinces to reduce emissions will not be enough to meet the target. The report, released as Prime Minister Jusin Trudeau prepared to sign the Paris climate change agreement i n New York Friday, said curbing emissions will cost Canada from one to three per cent in economic growth by 2030.

Curbing carbon emissions would cost Canada between one and three per cent in economic growth by 2030, but the price of l eaving greenhouse gas emissions unchecked “could be substantia­l,” the Parliament­ary Budget Officer said Thursday.

The federal government and a number of provinces have introduced a slew of measures to curb emissions, but they will not be enough, the PBO said in a report.

“Those measures, while substantia­l, are unlikely to achieve the target on their own. Deeper reductions will be needed,” the independen­t parliament­ary body noted.

The report comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to sign the Paris climate change agreement in New York on Friday, along with leaders of 130 other nations.

The Liberal government is pursuing a number of initiative­s to combat climate change, and is in discussion with the provinces to develop a carbon pricing mechanism.

The PBO warned that a patchwork of programs across different sectors may lead to “unnecessar­ily high costs,” while regional disparity could also hamper a pan-Canadian effort.

GDP per capita, which is forecast to climb to $61,200 by 2030, up from $55,500 in 2014, would be between $600 and $1,900 per capita higher in the absence of emission reduction policies, the PBO said.

“The needed changes will, however, necessaril­y impact on the economy since non-GHG sources of energy are currently more costly than cheap coal, natural gas or even oil products,” the PBO said. “The estimate used in the PBO report indicates that incomes could be reduced by between one and three per cent, relative to where PBO projects they would otherwise be.”

The PBO estimates Canada will have to slash emissions by 208 million tonnes to reach the previous government’s pledge to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. GHG emissions stood at 724 million tonnes in 2005.

Reaching that target would be the equivalent of removing all emissions from cars and trucks, PBO said.

The most substantia­l emission reductions will have to be pursued in transporta­tion, oil production and electricit­y with a combinatio­n of carbontax and greener alternativ­es.

Oil and gas production will lead carbon emission increases, soaring to 145 million tonnes by 2030, compared to 91 million tonnes in 2013, the PBO estimated. Led by oilsands emissions, fossil fuel production will account for nearly 20 per cent of the country’s CO2 emissions, compared with its current contributi­on of 12.5 per cent.

Cutting oilsands emission by about 40 million tonnes will require a carbon price of between $ 43 to $ 100 per tonne in the oil and gas extraction, refining and distributi­on. As an example, $100 per tonne cost would raise the price of a litre of gasoline by 24 cents, the PBO estimates.

Late last year, Alberta announced a carbon tax of $20 per tonne by January 2017, rising to $30 per tonne in January 2018 and growing with inflation. Any higher rates would likely be politicall­y difficult in an era of low profitabil­ity in the province’s dominant oil sector.

“You need to get to that $ 100 target by 2030, so you don’t need to do it all today,” Philip Bagnoli, author of the PBO report, said in an interview, noting that techno- logical innovation­s could help bring emissions down. “If you do it gradually and give people time to respond, my bet is that you will not have to get to $100 per tonne.”

Energy emissions will see a decline to a still-substantia­l 189 tonnes by 2030, compared to 224 million tonnes emissions in 2013. Road transport emissions will edge higher to 147 million tonnes by 2030, versus 134 million tonnes in 2013.

Despite the need to act against climate change, the PBO also warns that Canada could fall victim to “carbon leakage.” The country’s unilateral pursuit of carbon pricing could see economic production move away to countries that have less-stringent policies.

Despite accounting for just two per cent of global emissions, Canada’s emissions per capita are among the highest in the world.

And it’s trailing its peers, according to the Conference Board of Canada in a report published Thursday.

The Board gave Canada a D grade in its latest report on environmen­tal performanc­e, rating it 14 among 16 peers, only ahead of the U. S. and Australia.

Canada got a solitary A for low- emitting electricit­y production, but chalked up a string of Ds in energy intensity, GHG emissions and two other categories.

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