Canada pledges 30% CO2 cut by 2030, draws scorn from green groups

Canada’s failure to curb emissions from its huge oil sands industry means its 2030 target falls far below that of the EU and US

Canada has become the latest big greenhouse emitter to submit a proposed CO2 reduction target to the UN, but the country’s actions are much less ambitious than those promised by the US and the EU.

The world’s tenth-largest emitter pledged to curb emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, but Canada’s climate plan won’t target surging emissions from the production of oil from tar sands, putting longer term commitments on emissions cuts in grave doubt, environmentalists said.  

“Canada’s climate target is less-than-meets-the-eye and another disappointing sign of its reluctance to fight climate change,” said the Natural Resources Defence Council in a statement.  

Green groups have pointed out that its 2030 pledge would have required at least an 38% cut to meet its stated 2050 reduction target of 80%, an aim that was agreed by all G8 nations at a 2009 summit.

Although recently-submitted targets by the US and the EU are not without their critics, the pledges made by Washington and Brussels are viewed as broadly in line with the 2050 committment and are based wholly on domestic action. 

in contrast, Stephen Harper’s government has said that it will use carbon offset credits to meet its 2030 target, meaning it would have to do less domestically.

Despite promises in previous years that Canada would take strong action to reduce CO2 emissions from oil sands, the climate plan failed to outline new measures and instead will deliver the bulk of emissions cuts from power generation and transport.

Canadian Prime Minister Harper has refused to impose tougher emissions standards on tar sands, saying it would be “crazy” to add new burdens on producers at a time of low prices, particularly as US producers wouldn’t be saddled with similar legislation.

Environmentalists say that Canada’s reliance on tar sands has prompted a big reduction in support for climate research, cuts in public money for renewable energy, weaker environmental laws and a big increase in subsidies for the oil and gas sector.

Sceptics say the primacy given to the oil sands industry  – an important source of earnings  – will mean that Canada may be blasé about missing a 2030 target, should production from unconventional oil be higher than forecast.

Canada withdrew from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and admitted last year that it will miss a commitment agreed at the 2009 Copenhagen summit to cut GHG emissions 17% by 2020 from 2005 levels.