Selinger sticks with climate-change goals

Manitoba's premier affirmed Wednesday his government's commitment to meet its ambitious pollution-reduction goals even though some say it would take "a miracle" to do so.

Pollution target would be equal to car-free society

Manitoba's premier affirmed Wednesday his government's commitment to meet its ambitious pollution-reduction goals even though some say it would take "a miracle" to do so.

The announcement from Premier Greg Selinger comes exactly one week after the provincial auditor general said the reductions weren't going to happen within the NDP government's time frame or current programs. 

Selinger told CBC News the province is sticking by its ambitious Kyoto Protocol targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels, to about 17.5 megatonnes.

But Auditor General Carol Bellringer said in a recent report that that won't happen. In April, Manitoba Conservation forecast a gap of 2.7 megatonnes by the time the target is to be met in 2012.

Selinger seemed unfazed by Bellringer's findings.

"What we have to do is recalibrate how we will meet that target and take new initiatives and new ideas," said Selinger.

The problem is the scale of the challenge.
John Fjeldsted, Manitoba Environmental Industries Association says it would be virtually impossible for the government to meet its stated emission targets.

A CBC News analysis of the goal showed that a reduction of such a large volume of emissions is equal to the pollution produced by 540,000 cars, or nearly all of the 547,000 passenger vehicles currently registered with Manitoba Public Insurance.

John Fjeldsted, president of the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association, said Wednesday it would take "a miracle" for Manitoba to hit the legislated emissions cuts.

"It's still, to my way of thinking, virtually impossible to meet that target," said Fjeldsted.

No cuts mandated for industries

However, Bill Blaikie, the minister responsible for climate change, said his department is determined to try. 

Blaikie wants to accelerate programs aimed at curbing landfill gas, cut coal use on Hutterite farms, encourage geothermal and other green energy sources and boost energy efficiency.

"I don't think that there is one particular one that will cover the shortfall," Blaikie said. "It will have to be a whole bunch of things."

Bill Blaikie, Manitoba's climate change minister, said that despite the enormity of the province's climate-change targets the NDP government is willing to try to meet them. ((CBC))
The province said it also hopes to cut further emissions through a newly constructed wind farm in southern Manitoba. It's the largest wind farm in Canada, according to Selinger.

But one area where the province has no current initiatives to cut emissions is in industrial facilities, like factories and mills. The province's plans to introduce a cap-and-trade plan to curb emissions from these large emitters, but that program is not expected to take effect until well after 2012.

However, the closure of HudBay Minerals' smelter near the northern town of Flin Flon in the summer will cut provincial emissions by several hundred thousand tonnes. 

Expert lauds carbon tax

The province blames difficulty in reaching the Kyoto target on a combination of factors, including federal initiatives that fell through and unexpected immigration that boosted Manitoba's population.

"On the one hand, if your immigration policies succeed, you've got [thousands] of people coming into the province and they are all driving cars," said Blaikie.

Fjeldsted hopes the province will look west to B.C.'s "pay at the pump" initiative to reduce emissions.

"The obvious solution is a carbon tax, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

B.C.'s carbon tax, introduced in July 2008, charges a levy on users of fossil fuels like gasoline, coal and natural gas. All revenues collected are to be returned to citizens and businesses in the form of tax cuts.