1 June 2009: Canada must do much more on climate change

Canada is responsible for only 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions and also 2% of the historic contribution. However, it uses a third more energy per unit of GDP than the USA, has per capita annual emissions of 23 tons and is developing tar sands – a wasteful way (from the point of view of energy and water) of getting oil from tar, which is notable for being an even more polluting energy source than coal. Despite accepting a Kyoto target to reduce emission by 6% (from 1990 levels) by 2012, Canada’s emissions have increased by 55%.

Canada is self-sufficient in fossil fuels and political parties have long-standing links to the fossil fuel industry. The current Conservative government is making promises – for example, to have a 90% emissions free electricity sector by 2025 – but its policy proposals to try to meet this are weak. Carbon capture and storage is supported rhetorically, but not yet financially. After flirting with Obama, the Canadian federal government has reverted to opposition to a cap and trade system (although the British Columbia and Manitoba provincial governments are involved in a cross-border initiative with US Western states). And transport is a much more significant polluter in Canada than power generation: three quarters of Canada’s electricity is from hydro or nuclear (see Canada – climate and energy statistics).

Shell is widely condemned for its involvement in tar sands. This is deserved, but they are not alone. ExxonMobil, BP, Total and other major oil companies are also involved. We can only hope that President Obama uses his influence in Canada to get the government to promote electric vehicles, which will make oil from tar sands as redundant tomorrow as it is destructive today.

We have published today an article by Alicia DuBois on Canadian climate policy (see Political and economic pressure may be the only solution for Canada).

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