WATCH ABOVE: Commissioner of the environment and sustainable development Julie Gelfand tells Tom Clark why she believes the government will fall short of environmental targets set out in the Copenhagen Accord.
OTTAWA — Canada pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to 17 per cent less than 2005 levels. That was five years ago. This week, Canada’s environment commissioner says, we’re not even close.
Julie Gelfand’s maiden report said Ottawa is not working with the provinces in order to reach its target. Moreover, Gelfand’s report found there was no clear plan for monitoring the contentious oilsands beyond 2015.
Those conclusions, in conjunction with her finding that the oil and gas regulations Canadians have been waiting years to see have actually been around in draft form for more than a year, led to Gelfand’s summation of her findings: shocking.
“By the year 2020, we’ll be almost back to where we were in 2005, according to Environment Canada’s data,” she said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “The sector-by-sector approach of regulating each sector of the economy, if we continue down that path, I’m concerned that we won’t meet [the target] just because of the time lag of how long it takes to develop regulations. Then, once you regulate something, you usually give industry a year or two or three to catch up and we only have six years left.”
The government has introduced regulations to govern the automotive and transportation sector, the biggest source of emissions, as well as the area of electricity production.
But Gelfand’s report says that while regulations for coal-fired plants are in place, emissions have yet to be reduced because “performance standards take effect only in July 2015, and only apply to new plants or to existing plants when they reach the end of their useful life.”
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Gelfand also found that detailed, proposed regulations are sitting on the environment minister’s desk, but the “federal government has consulted on them only privately, mainly using a small working group of one province and selected industry representatives.”
Federal officials told the commissioner implementation has been delayed over “concern about whether regulations would make Canadian companies in the sector less able to compete with their U.S. counterparts,” the report said.
“We’ve seen bits and pieces of regulations, proposals … What we found in our audit was that some of these proposals have been discussed but very narrowly and very privately,” Gelfand told Tom Clark. “Environment Canada has said it wants to be a world class regulator. And if you want to be a world class regulator, you give people lots of time ahead of time that a regulation is coming down the path.”
Having gone through those drafts, which explore different options, the commissioner said some could bring down greenhouse gas emissions “by a variety of different numbers … It would depend on which one was chosen, but things would happen if the government decided to regulate.”
Even if any of those proposals was implemented immediately, Gelfand said it remains “highly unlikely” Canada will meet its targets.
With files from The Canadian Press
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