Each spring, Canada submits The National Inventory Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The report holds Canada accountable to targets it is committed to under the convention, including reducing emissions by 40-45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

To get expert perspectives on the report I read summaries by the Canadian Climate Institute and the Pembina Institute, two of our country’s most respected environmental organizations. The summaries contain mostly good news but with the caveat that more must be done to meet the emissions targets. As Pembina puts it, “Emissions are declining but Canada needs to pick up the pace.” Following is my distillation of the summaries.

Canada’s emissions are down 8.4 per cent below 2005 levels. Furthermore, emissions are decoupling from economic growth, a critical marker in meeting the 2030 targets. The Climate Institute found the trends even better than they had predicted.

The bright spot is the electricity sector where emissions have been reduced an impressive 52 percent since 2005, led by Canada’s nation-wide coal phase-out target. The building and agriculture sectors also show healthy declines.

The bad boy is, as always, the oil and gas sector, the country’s largess emitter. Oil and gas account for a full 28 percent of the country’s emissions. Tar sands alone saw emissions increase by nine percent over the last year.

Emissions from both heavy industry and transportation also increased with transportation a close second to oil and gas, producing about a quarter of the total emissions.

Progress is being made on methane at least. Oil and gas methane, including from fugitive sources, stationary combustion in oil and gas production, and pipeline transport, decreased 33 per cent from 2012 levels.

The villain among the provinces is not surprisingly Alberta, the largest emitting province in the country. Emissions were up 8.6 per cent over 2005 levels. Alberta has an Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan that at least indicates it is aware it is falling behind both nationally and internationally, but the plan lacks specifics.

Fortunately the largest province, Ontario, is headed in the right direction, reducing its emissions by 26 per cent from 2005. Most of the progress resulted from closure of the last coal-fired electricity generating station.

Unfortunately Ontario, like Alberta and Saskatchewan, is intent on bringing more natural gas online for power generation. While gas can have a limited role to play, excessive dependence jeopardizes the country’s goal of a net-zero grid.

The summaries conclude that the country is moving in the right direction, just not fast enough. The overall tone is one of cautious optimism.

2 thoughts on “Climate change—we make progress”

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