April 16th, 2018
China has met its targets to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 2020, a full two years ahead of schedule, despite its economy growing by a factor of 1.48 times between 2005 and 2015.
In contrast, Canada is falling short of its target to reduce emissions by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030, as shown by the government’s latest report to the UN on meeting its commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
WHY CANADA IS UNLIKELY TO MEET ITS TARGET
Canada’s emissions in 2005 were measured at 738 megatons (Mt); a 30% (221 Mt) reduction would bring emissions down to 517 Mt by 2030.
But as shown in Figure 4 of the Executive Summary of the government report, Canada is not likely to meet its target.
December, 2017 projections using “‘with measures’ scenarios as defined by the UNFCCC” show 2030 emissions of 722 Mt — that is to say, climate change policies enacted so far have resulted in no substantial reduction (only 16 Mt) from the 2005 levels.
However, more optimistic projections from December, 2017, “with specific measures from Canada’s clean growth and climate plan,” show emissions of 583 Mt by 2030 — much better, but still 66 Mt short of the target.
But even that optimistic scenario is challenged by an investigative report by the National Observer, which claims that Canada’s proposed climate policies won’t bring Canada even “halfway to its goal.” The gap between Canada’s proposed policy and its climate commitment is actually nearly twice as big as projected, according to report author Barry Saxifrage, because the government uses numbers based on policies that the US government hasn’t agreed to yet.
“The Trudeau government says its proposed climate policies will get Canada to within 66 million tonnes of our 2030 climate target. That’s already a big gap, but the federal accounting also assumes we can subtract a huge chunk of Canada’s emissions and pay to add them to the U.S. ledger through carbon credits — something the Americans haven’t agreed to do.”
As discussed by Mr. Saxifrage, the optimistic projections depend on Ontario and Quebec buying 59 Mt worth of offsets from California by 2030 under a cap and trade program. However, the US federal government has never agreed to the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), under which Canadian provinces buy offsets from California.
Without the WCI offsets, the effective carbon price needed to meet Canada’s target rises from $150 per ton of CO2 by 2030 to $220 per ton.
So far, the government has no plans to close the 66 Mt gap it acknowledges, much less any plans for a gap twice that size, according to the National Observer report.
THE ROLE OF POPULATION GROWTH
Of course, there is a very obvious way to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Canada’s population is growing very rapidly — by about 1% a year — as a result of high levels of immigration, which the government announced last October it intended to increase even further (see PIC’s press release of November 10, 2017).
Many newcomers to Canada come from countries with much lower per capita emissions than those of Canada. The greenhouse gas emission for a newcomer to Canada increases on average by a factor of 4.2.
The most effective policy for Canada to follow in order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions would be to stabilize its population and to encourage other countries to do likewise. As it happens, American population activist Rob Harding has launched an initiative (which PIC and many of our sister organizations support) to create a United Nations Framework Convention on Population, analogous to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which would encourage all countries to stabilize and reduce their own populations.
Unfortunately, the government of Canada is showing no signs of seeking to stabilize its population. On the contrary, its economic advisors are pushing the government to aim for a population of 100 million Canadians by the end of this century in order to promote Canada’s “international relevance.” This nebulous concept of relevance does not compensate for the environmental costs, nor has Canada’s rapid growth in recent decades resulted in economic benefits for the average Canadian.
More people inevitably means more greenhouse gas emissions and Canada’s population has increased by 7 million since the Kyoto accord base year of 1990. If Canada wants to reach its carbon goals and uphold its commitments under the Paris Agreement, we will need to consider the impact of ever greater numbers on our living spaces, infrastructure and carbon output in the coming years and strive toward a stable and genuinely sustainable population for Canada.