New report shows provincial action on climate change heating up
Most provinces are stepping up with strong targets and policies to reduce greenhouse gases in the absence of federal leadership on climate change, says a new David Suzuki Foundation report.
“The leadership vacuum at the federal level is being filled with action from the provinces and territories,” said Dale Marshall, report author and a climate change policy analyst with the Suzuki Foundation. “Most provinces and territories realize the urgency of climate change and they are moving ahead on their own to put policies in place to reduce emissions.”
The Suzuki Foundation released its new report today at the Council of the Federation meeting in Quebec City, where provincial and territorial premiers are meeting to discuss what they can do on climate change.
The report, Provincial Power Play: Breaking Away from Federal Inaction on Climate Change, looks at provincial and territorial action on climate change, compares their greenhouse gas emissions, assesses their climate change plans and evaluates their records.
The report finds most provinces have stronger climate change targets and policies than the federal government. Some provinces (British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec) are leading the pack when it comes to putting real solutions in place. Other provinces and territories (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut) have started taking action but require more effort to move forward. Some (Newfoundland, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan) have weak or vague climate plans. The worst offender (Alberta) has skyrocketing emissions and no plans to decrease them anytime soon.
British Columbia was rated the best of all 13 provinces and territories. Alberta was rated the worst.
Provinces with progressive policies include:
• British Columbia emerged as a national leader on climate change with its carbon tax, mandatory fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and a commitment to cap and reduce emissions from industry.
• Quebec has a strong plan that commits it to reducing greenhouse gas emissions loosely in line with the Kyoto Protocol. The province also plans to address industrial emissions through a cap-and-trade system.
• Manitoba has adopted legislated, Kyoto-like targets and released a new, stronger climate change plan. It has shown national leadership on installing ground-source heat pumps, a renewable technology that delivers heating and cooling using the earth’s energy.
• Ontario made advances in renewable energy, conservation and efficiency programs. It intends to implement a cap-and-trade system that mandates emission reductions from heavy industry. However, Ontario’s current energy plan remains heavily dependent on refurbishing its old nuclear plants and building new ones, diverting resources from clean-energy options.
Provinces that are moving forward but have some catching up to do include:
• New Brunswick committed to reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. It set targets for renewable energy and strengthened the province’s energy-efficiency agency. However, these benefits will be negated if the province allows unsustainable energy projects like another large oil refinery and liquefied natural gas terminal to proceed.
• Nova Scotia has also legislated targets for greenhouse gas emissions and is moving forward on renewable energy and energy efficiency. It still has to do more to reduce emissions from its coal-fired power plants.
• Prince Edward Island reached its target of having 15 per cent of its electricity come from renewable energy three years ahead of its 2010 timeline. But PEI has been stagnant on climate change for a few years and lacks a climate change plan.
• Newfoundland is pursuing some renewable energy projects, however, emissions from its two main sources of greenhouse gases – electricity and offshore oil and gas – remain unaddressed.
Provinces at the bottom of the list with weak or nonexistent plans to reduce emissions include:
• Alberta has a new climate change plan, which is weaker and more vague than its 2002 plan. Alberta also has the highest greenhouse gas emissions in the country. The province plans to increase its emissions until at least 2020, by which time emissions will have risen 45 per cent above 1990 levels.
• Saskatchewan introduced its first climate change plan in 2007 with an ambitious target for greenhouse gas reductions. However, the new provincial government has scrapped many of its climate change programs.
“The provinces that have good plans need to continue to implement them, and invest the resources required to make their emission goals a reality,” said Ian Bruce, a climate change specialist with the Suzuki Foundation. “Others that are on the cusp of action and leadership have an opportunity to move forward.”
As well, the Suzuki Foundation is calling on the federal government to follow the lead of the provinces and set strong, national standards across Canada (in order to create a level and fair playing field). This is especially important in order to rein in greenhouse gas increases in Alberta.