October 1, 2007

Canada's Emission Remain at Record High

OTTAWA -- Canada's greenhouse gas emissions have stayed at a record high for another year, according to federal statistics showing that even a warm winter and more nuclear power can't stop our up-and-up emissions trend.

The newest national summary shows our greenhouse gas production in 2005 stayed at the peak first reached in 2004, slightly above 2003, and significantly higher than all previous years.

Our emissions are now 32.7 per cent above the target in Canada's Kyoto Protocol commitment - which takes binding effect in three months.

While we at least managed not to increase our emissions in 2005, Environment Canada says that's partly because we got lucky with a warm winter. We also reduced emissions in some areas by bringing nuclear plants back online in Ontario, which allowed the province's power plants to burn less coal.

Environment Canada adds: "Long term growth, nevertheless, remains large. Between 1990 and 2005 significant increases in oil and gas production, much of which have been provided to the United States, have resulted in a significant increase in the emissions associated with the production and transportation of fuel for export."

The Kyoto Protocol obliges Canada to keep greenhouse gas emissions six percentage points below 1990 levels, on average, from the beginning of 2008 through 2012.

Yet the latest figures illustrate the gap between the public's stated goals - telling pollsters we demand cuts in emissions - and the nation's real demand for cars, heated homes and manufactured products.

The upward emissions trend doesn't surprise Jim Bruce, a former senior official of Environment Canada now in private practice.

That's "because we haven't made any really big, determined efforts," he said. "We've taken a number of baby steps but not really big concerted effort to reduce emissions."

We can't cut fuel unless we re-engineer existing buildings to conserve more heat, and make smaller cars and trucks, he said.

"The Europeans are doing this, especially Britain and Norway and Germany." Some of these countries also have substantial wind power, and this week Britain announced it will dam the Severn River estuary to run rising and falling tidewaters through turbines that produce electricity.

"California is doing things. There are a number of developed countries and regions that have taken the bit in the teeth and are moving to reductions.

"What the Swedes did is a really a key thing. They rejigged their whole tax structure to reduce significantly income takes and other taxes and increase energy taxes."

Canadian figures comparing 2005 to previous years show that:

- People still aren't conserving electricity. Demand actually increased from 2003 to 2005, but greenhouse emissions fell when Ontario refurbished nuclear plants that had been idle, and shut down coal-burning plans. There was also some increase nationally in hydroelectric power, which doesn't produce carbon dioxide.

- Since 1990, Canadians have increased their emissions from transportation by 33 per cent. (The Kyoto deal measures everything since 1990.)

But within that category, emissions from light trucks and SUVs are up by 109 per cent, reflecting how sales of these popular brands have risen sharply despite our national commitment to use less fuel.

Most of the rest of the increase from transportation came from heavy diesel trucks.

- The growth of factory farms for pigs, chickens and beef cattle boosted emissions in the agriculture sector. As well, the conversion of forest and natural grasslands to cropland is a continuing source of gas emissions.

- Alberta is the biggest greenhouse gas producer (more than 230 million tonnes in 2005, or about 30 per cent of Canada's total.) Ontario comes second (200 million tonnes), followed by Quebec (about 90 million), Saskatchewan (about 70 million, much of it from fertilizer), British Columbia (about 65 million) and the rest all less than 25 million.

- Leaks from natural gas pipelines continue to be a major source of greenhouse gases. Leakage grew by 54 per cent between 1990 and 2005.

- Exploitation of tarsands is expected to increase greenhouse gases from energy production.

2005 (also 2004) 747 million tonnes

2000 - 721 million tonnes

1995 - 646 million tonnes

1990 - 596 million tonnes

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