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Carbon policies too inefficient

The mish-mash of carbon emissions policies offered by the federal and provincial governments who have been going it alone is not a particularly efficient way to deal with climate change issues.


June 1, 2011
by PLANT STAFF

OTTAWA: The mish-mash of carbon emissions policies offered by the federal and provincial governments who have been going it alone is not a particularly efficient way to deal with climate change issues, says the Conference Board of Canada.

The Ottawa-based think tank is calling for more collaboration on greenhouse gas emissions policy between governments.

Its Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in Canada report, which reviews federal, provincial, and territorial climate change action plans, reveals how the approach to reducing emissions has been neither effective nor efficient.

“Despite a patchwork of uncoordinated federal and provincial initiatives, Canada appears to have stopped the growth in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Since 2005, Canada’s GHG emissions have stabilized and have begun to decline. Recently released estimates for 2009 confirm this trend. However, without an accelerated pace of climate policy action, Canadian governments are unlikely to meet their own targets,” said Len Coad, director of energy, environmental and technology policy. “Not only is policy coordination among governments more likely to reduce emissions at a lower cost, it would help governments to learn from the practices of others.”

Annual emissions increased by 142 million tonnes between 1990 and 2008 and stabilized between 2004 and 2008, but a strong downward trend is yet to emerge.

The conference Board report notes each province has set a 2020 target for emission reductions, but action will have to accelerate or objectives will be missed. A national target of a 17% reduction by 2020 (from a 2005 baseline) and the individual provincial targets are being addressed through a complex, diverse, and opaque mix of instruments and programs.

The Conference Board sees the provincial plans as generally well aligned to address their major sources of emissions. For example, Alberta, the country’s major energy producer with the biggest share of emissions, emphasizes reducing emissions through greener energy production and technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

Ontario and Quebec, which are second and third, are reducing energy consumption and, in Ontario, building more green electricity into its power infrastructure.

The federal government is promoting renewable electricity generation and focusing on regulating vehicle emissions through the following tools:
• voluntary markets for carbon reduction;
• regulatory limits on emissions intensity;
• regulations for tailpipe emissions and electricity generation emissions;
• communication programs;
• investment programs;
• capital subsidies, and
• government initiatives to “green” their own operations.

The Conference Board notes carbon pricing – in the form of cap-and-trade mechanisms or a carbon tax – has not been broadly implemented. Quebec and BC have adopted carbon taxes, while Alberta has an intensity cap on large final emitters. The intensity cap is one policy instrument where a coordinated approach may produce more efficient results.

The report is available at www.e-library.ca.