The European Union (EU) has unilaterally committed all 28 member states to a 20% reduction on 1990 levels by the year 2020. The EU has additionally pledged to increase this to 40% of 1990 levels by 2025 and the U.S has pledged a 28% reduction on 2005 levels by the same year.
The latest proposals from the Canadian government make even these modest targets look positively ambitious. The government of Stephen Harper has merely pledged reduce its emissions of the gases responsible for anthropogenic climate change to 30% of 2005 levels by 2030. According to climate scientists this level is nowhere near what is needed if Canada is to play its part in keeping global warming below 2°C (3.6F).
This somewhat arbitrary figure is the absolute maximum that the world’s community of climate scientists will accept, if humanity is to avoid what is euphemistically called “dangerous climate change.” The advent of Tar Sands has necessitated a re-appraisal of the Canadian government’s commitment to a 2009 pledge to cut emission levels to 17% of the 2005 figure by 2020. This level was announced by Stephen Harper the Canadian Prime Minister.
The new Canadian proposals are the lowest of any industrialised nation and are announced in an election year, where the Canadian Democratic Party headed by Harper is seeking re-election. Overall Tar sands extraction has expanded hugely under the current government and it means that even the new targets are unlikely to be met. The announcement is a definite setback to efforts aimed at establishing a legally binding agreement to keep warming below 2°C.
Overall, the U.S now has a more comprehensive emission reduction strategy than its northerly neighbour. In addition, the new Canadian proposals are replete with clauses to obtain offsetting credits which can be purchased from other nations. Although unwelcome, the announcement is not unexpected as Canada has rapidly expanded its production of crude oil from the Alberta tar sands. Concurrently, the Harper government has been lobbying hard for new international markets for tar sands crude.
The Canadian government is seeking to increase production Tar sands Crude from 2 million to 5.5 million barrels a day. Such an eventually will totally overwhelm efforts across the Canadian provinces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Tar sands extraction uses approximately 5 times as much carbon per barrel to extract than those employed to acquire crude oil from conventional sources. On current trends the province of Alberta will be responsible for 40% of all Canadian emissions of greenhouse gases. Only 12% of the Canadian population live in Alberta.
In contrast the province of Ontario has recently announced plans to reduce its emissions to 37% of 1990 levels by 2030, an altogether more welcome and robust announcement