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Glen Murray, right, chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy, says of the group's study: 'The report sees about 40 per cent of our reduction [of greenhouse gases] from using energy less.' ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Canada could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 using existing technology and without hurting the economy, said a study from an arms-length federal agency.

The study, released on Wednesday by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), is an advisory document for the environment minister.

"The report sees about 40 per cent of our reduction [of greenhouse gases] from using energy less," said Glen Murray, who chairs of the round table.

Murray said Canada is slowly shifting how it thinks about energy, said Murray,citingexamples of ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are already being used:

  • In Ontario, nuclear power plants as an alternative to coal-generated plants.
  • In Atlantic Canada, tidal energy.
  • In the West,carbon sequestration and clean coal technology.

In sequestration,carbon dioxide is capturedfrom the air and put in underground storage facilities, thereby reducing the tonnes of carbon dioxide output.

The clean coal process, which has been called into doubt by some in the scientific community,turns coal into a synthetic natural gas that captures pollutants before they're released into the atmosphere.

"We're really looking at a major transformation and a huge economic opportunity for Canada while we tackle the problem of greenhouse gases in the longer term," said Murray.

Report calls for strong political direction

If industry uses less energy, Canadians use more fuel-efficient cars and cities make better use of public transit, it will not only help the economy but save the environment, he said.

"We can't afford to continue the way we're going because we'll destroy the environment and nature from which we derive our economy," said Murray.

The report says Canada urgently needs a strong political direction to reduce greenhouse gases.

Murray said the solution must be tailored to the country's specific needs.

"We're a major oil exporter, unlike European countries who have signed on to different kinds of reduction levels," he said.

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has said Canada cannot meetits commitments under the international agreement, theKyoto accord,without hurting the economy.

The accord, adopted in 1997 after being agreed to by 146 countries, requires Canada to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.