Canada dropping intensity targets?

Canada dropping intensity targets?

The Canadian Government is adjusting its climate plans to more closely resemble those proposed in the US.  This summer Environment Canada is conducting a series of consultations with respect to its greenhouse gas emissions policies for heavy polluting industries and an announcement is expected in the fall outlining the new regulations. 

Climatico has learned from confidential sources that changes are likely to include a turn-around on ‘intensity targets’ which the Conservative Government has been promoting since 2007 in its widely-panned ‘Turning the Corner’ climate plan.  This reflects the US direction towards ‘cap and trade’ plans envisioned by the Waxman-Markey Bill  and now being discussed separately in the US Senate.

According to the leaked information provided to Climatico, changes in the Canadian plan are likely to include hard emissions caps for the power and oil & gas sector (a change from previously announced intensity targets, levels not yet determined).   Hard emissions caps also being discussed for the utility & electricity sector as well as the ‘EITE’ group (energy intensive, trade exposed) which includes aluminum, cement, chemicals, iron & steel, lime, gas transmission, base metal smelting, iron ore pelletizing, pulp & paper, and potash companies.

While hard emissions caps represents a welcome shift in policy away from intensity targets, what still remains unclear is how the Government will allocate pollution permits under the proposed system, and what the actual cap will be.  Information leaked to Climatico indicates that EITE industries will likely receive their permits free instead of through an auction therefore weakening the incentives to reduce emissions.   

Critically, changes to the Canadian plan will not include an adjustment of the overall ambition of emissions reductions.  Canada’s 2020 target will remain 20% reductions from 2006 levels – a target that has received substantial criticism for not reflecting the levels suggested by scientists of the IPCC for developed countries.

Furthermore, sources indicate that the proposed changes are likely to include plenty of loopholes allowing industry to weaken the climate-impact of the measures.  For example, compliance with the emissions cap could be achieved through payment into a ‘technology fund’ instead of implementing emissions reduction measures.  The level of inter-firm trading, as well as domestic and international offsets that would be allowed has also not been determined and the government is seeking input from industry on these matters.  It also remains unclear who else, aside from those being regulated will be consulted regarding these proposed changes.

With multiple meetings scheduled between Prime Minister and President Obama in the fall, the renewed discussion of a possible fall election, and the pivotal UN climate meeting in Copenhagen this December it appears the Canadian Government is trying to get its house in order on the climate front. The proposed changes to the ‘Turning the Corner’ plan start to fill the void in Canadian climate policy, but they still have a long way to go.

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