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Martin Laplante

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Sun, 18 May 2008

Will Canada Reach Kyoto Targets With New GHG Inventory Figures?

The latest figures on Canada's Greenhouse gas inventory have just been released. They were released on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend, the traditional time to release bad news that you hope the media will not take much notice of.

But this is only bad news for those who believe that turning around the trend in greenhouse gas emissions is impossible. The summary report shows that emissions dropped once again. The drop in 2006 was greater than the drop in 2005, which was about the same as 2003.

This is a continuation of the trend from last year.

The interesting part is what happens if we start to extrapolate these increasing drops in GHG emissions every year. Extrapolating from 2001, which was the first year of Climate Change Action Plan 2000, with a 2nd order polynomial the data seems to show that although the target of 558.4 Megatonnes won't be reached in 2008, the first year of the 2008-2012 Kyoto commitment period, it will be reached well before 2012.

So why is this data being buried using a long-weekend release? Is it because they are afraid that the Climate Change Action Plan 2000, which the current government denounced as ineffective and shut it down, seems to have worked? More likely, it is because the data clearly point to the major real source of the decrease: the shutting down of the coal-fired plants in Ontario. The plants were built by Conservatives and were shut down by Liberals - maybe that pattern is the one that scares the government. I don't really know.

Is this type of an extrapolation valid? Not in and of itself, a simple extrapolation of this type has Canada reaching zero emissions in 2017, but the short-term trends are there and may well continue. A great deal of our increase in GHG emissions comes from transportation, most of the increase from trucks - light and heavy, gasoline and diesel. The economics of fuel prices should reverse that trend. Voters are keeping up the political pressure to reduce fossil fuel use in electricity production. Depending who gets elected, the utilities will have to continue switching away from fossil fuels. The economic slowdown and the pressure on municipal governments may well reduce the demand for and supply of wasteful, sprawling housing and retail and along with the price of fuel cause an increase in transit's modal split. Reductions in driving and sprawl have already happened in the U.S.

The biggest problem on the horizon is the continued expansion of the bituminous sands. Higher fuel prices unfortunately encourages companies to even further develop this hugely inefficient source of energy. I suspect that without the expansion of that industry we would confidently predict that the Kyoto targets can be reached, with or without any help form the Federal government. But only the summary GHG inventory report has been released. I look forward to seeing the details to see which provinces are on track and which are not.


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