Canada accused of issuing misleading update on UN carbon cutting progress

By John Parnell

Canada has not reached the halfway point of its 2020 emission reduction targets as it claimed last month, according to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT).

Environment Minister Peter Kent announced in August that the country had reached the halfway point of its goal of reducing emissions by 17% compared to 2005 levels. The pledge was made through the UN climate agency’s 2009 Copenhagen Accord.

CAT says that Kent’s claim is not based on the same rules as the Copenhagen Accord, which measures against a historic baseline, and was instead obtained by comparing emissions with its own “business as usual” estimates for emissions. The business as usual scenario assumes no attempts are made to cut carbon.

The graph shows that while present day emissions are less than 2020 projections, they also show little improvement on 2005's measured emissions, the baseline for its emission reduction pledge through the UN. (Source: Climate Action Tracker)

CAT, an alliance of Potsdam University, the Ecofys energy consultancy and Climate Analytics, a German NGO, says Canada is a third of a way to its target.

However, it predicts  emissions from its oil and gas sector – in particular its energy intensive tar sands production – will see emissions soar in the coming years.

The CAT report states that if tar sands related emissions were curbed, the country could turn around its performance and get close to those 2020 targets.

The government’s own projections for emissions show that it will miss its 2020 targets with the recent drop attributed largely to the recession’s reduced economic output.

It also included benefits from carbon sinks in its vast forests for the first time which had a significant bearing on the result.

CAT’s claim comes as the UN climate change process concluded a productive meeting in Bangkok with a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP2) looking likely. KP2 could also see New Zealand, Australia, Russia and Ukraine making legally binding emission pledges for the first time.

The addition of these countries to a new commitment period would mean 20% of the world’s emissions were included in the scheme.

Canada left the Kyoto Protocol last year stating that it was too small make a difference and signalled its willingness to participate in a global emissions deal that was applicable to all nations.

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