Canada Must Support Renewables in Campaign Against GHG Emissions

An environmental group says the Canadian government has taken “few concrete actions” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and relies on “loose phrases” such as “‘encourage’ the development of renewable energy” in its plans and strategies.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CA) 2002-02-04 [] That language “sounds good on a superficial level” but it “lacks teeth,” says the David Suzuki Foundation in its report, ‘Up in the air: Canada’s mixed record on ozone depletion and climate change.’ “Canada’s failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions stands in stark contrast to our success in reducing the production and use of ozone-depleting substances,” says author David Boyd. “Canada’s successful response to ozone depletion is a powerful symbol of environmental optimism.” Governments used effective laws and innovative policies to reduce consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals by 95 percent since 1987, while it allowed GHG emissions to increase by 15 percent, despite the fact that both environmental conditions are caused by human activities, both pose substantial threats to human well-being and the environment, both are expected to have disproportionate impacts on Canada because of the country’s northern latitude, both were “vigorously denied by industry until the scientific evidence became difficult to refute” and both are the subject of international environmental agreements. “The protection of the earth’s ozone layer proves that Canadians are capable of summoning the wisdom necessary to protect the planet for future generations,” adds Scott. “We must now apply that wisdom and will to the challenge of climate change.” The report examines Canada’s record on the two problems and why Canada was at the forefront of global efforts to protect the ozone layer “while showing little leadership in defusing the threat posed by global warming.” In 1990, Canada pledged to stabilize emissions of CO2 at 1990 levels by the year 2000, and repeated that promise in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The commitment was confirmed by the Liberal party in 1993 and 1997 and, in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Canada agreed to reduce its GHG emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Comprehensive reports have been released by research organizations around the world during that time, and European countries are demonstrating leadership in cutting GHG emissions by 25 percent through innovative means “while maintaining quality of life, social well-being and economic prosperity,.” explains the report. A study by the European Union estimates that Europe could create 900,000 new jobs by doubling production of renewable energy in the next decade, while saving $32 billion and 402 megatonnes of carbon emissions annually. Surveys indicate that 93 percent of Canadians want the country to meet or exceed its commitment in Kyoto, and only 6 percent believe the agreement would hurt domestic industry. “Given the strong scientific consensus about climate change, the availability of cost effective alternatives and substitutes, the high degree of public concern and the strong legal basis for federal action, the question remains: Why is Canada a leader in fighting ozone depletion and a laggard in battling climate change?,” asks the report. A federal report in 1990 estimated that reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent could save Canada $99 billion, and estimates of the economic value of health care benefits from reducing GHG emissions range from $300 million to $10 billion a year. A study prepared for Environment Canada concludes that the impacts of climate change in Canada could cost from $3.5 to $24.5 billion annually. Canadian governments must replicate the formula that worked in the ozone campaign, including “aggressively investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transit and other proven emission reduction measures,” says the report. “If progressive corporations and industrialized northern European nations can make progress using these strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without experiencing economic turbulence, Canada should be able to do the same,” it concludes.