While Manitoba’s efforts are not as expensive or expansive as Ontario’s “right to connect” initiative or as innovative as British Columbia’s carbon tax, Manitoba has been quietly pulling its own weight when it comes to reducing GHG emissions. As it makes clear on its website, while it is by no means a major emitter in Canada, it would still rather be part of the solution than part of the problem.

To this end Manitoba has formed several cooperatives , including New South Wales, but perhaps most importantly with California. In both cases efforts have been made to share knowledge on the application of public policy, share science and technology and to look for opportunities to expand trade where it might help to reduce emissions. Taking top seat, is Manitoba’s partnership with California, bound by not only a specific agreement of cooperation on Climate Change but through the influential WCI Western Climate Initiative, an alliance of some of the biggest states and provinces in North America, committed to emission reductions. It is the WCI which has formed the framework for Manitoba’s Climate Change plans.

Manitoba’s initial plan is to match or exceed the Kyoto protocol targets. That might sound antiquated nowadays but as Manitoba points out in their executive summary, it’s aim to achieve 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, putting Manitoba on course to be the “one of the greenest jurisdictions on the continent”. It also puts them well on course to meet or exceed the WCI’s target of 15% reduction on 2005 levels by 2020.

To put their plan into action Manitoba has a wide range of Carbon reducing or (offsetting in some cases) measures, ranging from planting 5 million trees, improving building energy efficiency standards and funding for renewable energy.  Manitoba has been semi-progressive by putting a tax per tonne of coal, which will begin in 2011, I say “semi-progressive” because, as officials admit, only three companies in Manitoba actually use large amounts of coal:

  • Tembec’s pulp and paper mill in Pine Falls, which was built in 1917.
  • The Graymont lime plant in Faulkner.
  • Manitoba Hydro’s Brandon power plant, which is to be phased out shortly and used only on an emergency basis.

If you thought these measures were not spectacular enough to warrant Manitoba’s claim that it could be one of the greenest jurisdictions in Northern America, you wouldd be right. How is Manitoba able to be so effective?

Assuming their plan succeeds or is close, Manitoba will be helped by their main source of industry coming from transport (compared with some of the heavy industry emissions compared with nearby territories Saskatchewan and of course Alberta. As a result, fuel efficiency standards can and will form the backbone of Manitoba’s efforts and can make serious dents in emissions reductions,, transport accounts for 15% of Manitoba’s GHG emissions. As a January 2009 summary makes clear Manitoba is basing its Vehicle standards on California. While California is still waiting on its waiver to set higher Vehicle standards, if it gets them, Manitoba will follow suite and adopt.

What Manitoba’s vehicle standards will mirror California’s – underlining not only the very real influence of fellow WCI members on each other to share and implement areas of public policy but also the importance California sets at a state-wide level as an alternative to Federal  inaction.  The WCI, covers 25.5 million of Canada’s 33.3 million people underlining the importance of the initiative to Canada and the weight of California’s influence. Last week I looked at how California’s clean fuel laws could undermine Alberta’s oil sands given California’s extensive vehicle ownership. Alberta was understandably concerned at the early closing of a potentially lucrative market, this week in the same vein we see how clear demarcation between leadership and opposition among Canadian states across the North American continent.  Invariably, the WCI among other things represents the political structure of North American states, but also the gap in recent years between Federal and state-wide action on Climate Change. This gap ought not to be ignored because it doesn’t do justice to the efforts at state level to reduce GHG emissions. Yet, these efforts are no means in vain, not only can they be trail blazers for policy ideas to tackle Climate change but they also represent a very large proportion of Canada’s emissions and will undoubtedly put increasing pressure on less enthusiastic states such as Alberta to shoulder some of the burden – but perhaps we shouldn’t hold our breath.

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