Thursday, October 22, 2015

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions by Province

(Updated 2017 with 2015 data)
In new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election platform, he committed his government to:
·         “working with the provinces and territories to set (greenhouse gas) targets”
·         “attend the December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, and will invite all Premiers to join him”

With the new government’s new accent on working with the provinces in this area, let’s look at the record so far with a special focus on GHG emissions by province.

The Chr├ętien/Martin government ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and committed Canada to reduce GHG emissions. Canada’s average emissions over 2008-2012 were to be 6% below the 1990 level. In 2005, the last year that the previous Liberal government was in office Canada’s GHG emissions were 21% above the 1990 benchmark.

To be fair to former Prime Minister Harper, even if he had wanted to, he could not possibly have met the Kyoto commitment that he inherited when he took office at the start of 2006. However, he did not want to comply with Canada’s Kyoto commitment. He sneered at “so-called GHG emissions” and dismissed Kyoto as “fun for a few scientific and environmental elites in Ottawa, but (for) ordinary Canadians ... the benefits are negligible”. 

The Harper government formally withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol.

The provinces were not bound by the Kyoto Protocol. However, the provinces control many policy levers needed to reduce GHG emissions – e.g., ownership and/or regulation of electric power, share the gasoline tax with the federal government.

Environment Canada collects and publishes comparable estimates of GHG emissions by province. No province met Canada’s national target of a 6% GHG reduction between 1990 and 2008-12. However, Quebec came close to a 5% reduction. Ontario at -2% was the only other province to reduce GHGs over that period. But, these reductions in Canada’s 2 most populous provinces were dwarfed by GHG increases in the three westernmost provinces – Saskatchewan (+56%), Alberta (+40%) and British Columbia (BC +19%). Thanks to the GHG-intensive boom in western oil and gas production, GHGs rose by 16.5% for Canada as a whole vs. up 7% in the USA, which never ratified Kyoto.

In the 2009 Copenhagen Agreement, Harper adopted Chr├ętien’s strategy of copying the American target – 2020 GHG emissions 17% below the 2005 level.

So far, Canada is doing a bit better with our Copenhagen commitment. The latest data for 2015 (the last full calendar year of the Harper regime) show Canada’s GHG emissions 2% below the 2005 benchmark vs. -10% reduction in the USA. However, neither Canada nor the USA will likely hit their Copenhagen target of a 17% GHG reduction by 2020. 

At the provincial level, New Brunswick (NB) and Nova Scotia (NS) are leading the way with 2015 GHGs 30% below their 2005 levels. Ontario is 3rd at -19%, Prince Edward Island 4th (PEI = -15%), Quebec 5th at -10% and BC 6th at -5%. Alberta (+18%) and Saskatchewan (+8%) remain the laggards, but thanks to low oil prices slowing production GHGs in those provinces have not grown as fast from 2005 to 2015 as was the case from 1990 to 2005.

Looking at the full 1990-2015 period spanning both Kyoto and Copenhagen, NS (-18%) and NB (-13.5%) are the leaders followed by Quebec 3rd at -10%, Ontario 5th at -8% and PEI  5th at -5%, . However, GHGs have grown fast enough in Saskatchewan (+66%), Alberta (+56%) and BC (+17%) to leave Canada’s total for 2015 18% above the Kyoto Protocol’s 1990 benchmark (vs. 3.5% rise over the same period in the US).

In the new Paris Agreement, the new Trudeau government set yet another target for Canada -- a 30% GHG reduction from 2005 by 2030. Canada has finally set a different target than the USA. President Obama committed Americans to reduce total GHGs by 26% below their 2005 level by 2025. Neither Canada nor the USA has a plan to reach the new Paris targets and the Trump Administration has announced that the USA is withdrawing from the Paris process.