Canada Vows to Cut Emissions by 20 Pct by 2020
Author: David Ljunggren
Environment Minister John Baird is due to unveil the full program on Thursday, but revealed some details ahead of time after a copy of his prepared remarks was inadvertently sent to an opposition legislator.
He said Ottawa's plan to curb emissions from heavy industrial polluters such as power companies and energy firms would stop the rise in greenhouse gases in three to five years, and he promised to halve air pollution by 2015.
"We find ourselves today with one of the worst environmental records among industrialized countries. Now, we need to turn things around," he said.
"Once greenhouse gases have stopped rising, we will begin to reduce them, so that by 2020, Canada will have cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 150 million tonnes. This is 20 percent of our total emissions today."
Critics said Canada should stick to the Kyoto protocol on climate change, which calls for a six percent cut in Canadian emissions from 1990 levels by 2012.
John Bennett of Climate Action Network Canada said Baird's plan meant emissions in 2020 would be 11 percent above where they should have been in 2012 under Kyoto.
"This is not enough. This is turning our back on Kyoto. This is I think a cynical attempt to convince Canadians that this government is doing something serious about air pollution and climate change and it's doing neither," he told Reuters.
Canada's emissions are 27 percent above 1990 levels.
Bennett and others complain the government is being too friendly toward the energy industry, which is mainly located in western Canada, power base of the Conservative government.
"They don't have a plan. They're lurching from announcement to announcement," said Paul Dewar, a legislator for the opposition left-leaning New Democrats.
Leaked documents indicate Baird will opt for intensity-based targets that would reduce the rate at which companies and utilities pollute the atmosphere, rather than imposing firm targets for cuts.
Baird said last week that firm targets would lead to a 25 percent jump in the jobless rate and a recession.
"We will not spin the wheel so hard as to put the Canadian economy in the ditch to deliver an environmental plan asked for in some quarters," he told reporters on Wednesday.
Pressed as to why he planned to cut emissions from current levels rather than those in 1990, he replied: "We're not going to make commitments and promises that we can't deliver."
Baird also said Canada would explore domestic trading in emissions, whereby firms producing less greenhouse gas emissions than targeted could sell part of their allowance to firms that pollute too much.
He said Canada would explore future linkages with emissions trading systems in the United States and Mexico, provided it was in Canada's best interest.
Under the plan firms could meet their targets by:
* cutting emissions
* taking part in domestic emissions trading
* participating in the Kyoto protocol's Clean Development Mechanism
* investing in a technology fund designed to "help industry develop the solutions to produce deep reductions in greenhouse gases over time".
Baird's speech is available on the Environment Canada Web site at http://www.ec.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=6F2DE1CA-1&news=389E60E0-1E29-462A-B9AF-02A00CAC7AA9