Wednesday, 27 April 2011

There's a dirty secret in Tory greenhouse gas plan

Andrew Leach, an environmental economist at the University of Alberta:
There’s a hole in the Conservative platform…a hole so big, you could fit Canada’s oil and gas sector or every single one of our fossil-fuel power plants into it. The hole is projected to get bigger, and will be large enough to fit every single car, truck, SUV, train, bus, and ATV in Canada into it by 2020. These are not figures from David Suzuki. They are taken from speeches by Conservative Environment Minister Peter Kent and reports provided by Environment Canada earlier this year.

The Conservatives do not have the policies in place to meet commitments in their platform. The platform re-iterates Canada’s Copenhagen commitment to reduce GHG emissions from current levels of around 730 million tons (Mt) to 607 Mt, or 17 per cent below our 2005 levels, by 2020. Mr. Kent called the target “ambitious,” and he was not kidding. To get there, even if you ignored the potential for economic growth, it would take the equivalent of shutting down every single coal- and natural-gas-fired power plant in the country.

The story gets worse when you consider the economic growth we expect to see over the next eight years. In his first speech as Environment Minister, Peter Kent admitted that, “there is a great deal to do,” since without any new policies, Canada’s emissions will likely grow to around 800 Mt per year, and we would miss the Conservatives’ pledge by 178 Mt, as you can see in the graph below from Environment Canada. To put that into perspective, you could eliminate the emissions from every single car and truck on the road today, and we would still not get there.

The Conservatives are clearly aware of this hole in their platform, but they have failed to introduce any substantial new programs to close the 178 Mt gap. The only real policy announcement came on March 31, when Stephen Harper announced that the Conservatives would provide a $4.2-billion dollar loan guarantee to the Lower Churchill River hydro project, which is expected to reduce annual GHG emissions by 4.5 Mt. Today’s announcement from SaskPower puts the price tag of their new CCS project at more than $1-billion, to achieve annual emissions reduction of approximately 1Mt. The Conservatives only need to find 38 more projects of this size to reach our 2020 goal. If the cost of these projects remains in the $1-billion per Mt range, it would seem that the NDP isn't the only party with a hole in its green budget.

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