Technology & Science

Federal greenhouse gas rules won't meet targets, environmental group says

The federal government's proposed regulations for greenhouse gas pollution have little chance of meeting the government's own targets, says an analysis by the Pembina Institute.

The federal government's proposed regulations for greenhouse gas pollution have little chance of meeting the government's own targets, says an analysis by the Pembina Institute.

"Despite the government's acceptance of the seriousness of climate change and the need for regulations to limit industrial greenhouse gas pollution, our analysis shows that the minister's proposals are in desperate need of improvement," Marlo Raynolds, the executive director of the environmental think-tank said in a news release.

The institute says Environment Minister John Baird's strategy, dubbed Turning the Corner, provides no explanation of how it plans to stop the growth of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 2010-12.

"Without measures additional to those the government has announced to date, the short-term target can only be met if there is a unexpected and dramatic slowing of the business-as-usual increase in emissions," says the Pembina report.

Introduced in April, the federal government's Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution, includes:

  • Mandatory targets on industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 150 megatonnes by 2020.
  • Targets to reduce industrial air pollution by half by 2015.
  • Regulating fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks, beginning in 2011.
  • Strengthening energy efficiency standards for products such as lightbulbs.

The group says the analysis showed "numerous loopholes and gaps that undermine the credibility of the government's target for 2020." It points to 20 "unresolved issues" in the regulatory framework and says "most" of them "add to the risk that industrial emissions will be higher than the government has claimed."

The report says the government's proposals treat the oil and gas sector less strictly than other industries.

The report states:

  • Sectors with stable or slow-growing production levels will have to reduce actual emissions while the oilsands sector will be able to triple its emissions if the industry’s own production projections are correct.
  • The framework largely ignores the fact that between 1990 and 2004, the energy-producing sectors substantially increased their emissions, while the energy-consuming sectors achieved a slight decrease.
  • Because of the low rate for payments into the framework’s technology fund, taxpayers could end up paying about half of the cost of carbon capture and storage projects, despite the industry being able to reasonably afford close to the full cost.
  • "Unintentional fugitive emissions" from the oil and gas sector (about one-quarter of the sector’s emissions) are exempted from the main regulatory framework. They are to be regulated separately, but the government has not specified how.
  • New oilsands facilities are to be treated more leniently than existing facilities, i.e., the reduction in emissions intensity for the sector as a whole is to be less than the reduction for existing facilities.

The Pembina Institute is an Alberta-based environmental think-tank.