Climate policy works – but these sectors undercut progress: report

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Canada has been successful in significantly reducing emissions, but the progress is being undercut by rising emissions in three sectors, a new report by the Canadian Climate Institute says.

According to the report, climate policy and market drivers, including clean energy technology deployment, decreased emissions by 22.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide between 2021 and 2022. On the other hand, emissions rose in some sectors by a combined total of 37.1 metric tons. This means that despite climate policy, Canada saw a net increase of 14.2 metric tons of emissions, the report says.

Emissions from oil and gas production and from buildings accounted for 72 per cent of the total increase in emissions.

“The rise in emissions from buildings was largely due to increased heating demand from a colder winter,” the report said.

The report said all sectors of the Canadian economy have seen a reduction in emissions since 2005, except for oil and gas, buildings and agriculture. Oil and gas emissions have gone up by more than 15 per cent since 2005, while emissions from buildings have gone by nearly nine per cent.

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However, Canada has been performing better when it comes to electricity generation. Emissions from the electricity sector are less than half of what they were in 2005 – a reduction of 55.6 per cent. The report said Canada’s electricity grid is 84 per cent non-emitting, compared with 40 per cent of the U.S. grid.

“Our Early Estimate of Canada’s 2022 emissions shows that climate policy and clean technology are cutting emissions —but that progress is being swamped by the continued rise in emissions from oil and gas and buildings,” said Rick Smith, president of the Canadian Climate Institute.

“Acting quickly to cap emissions from oil and gas, reducing methane leaks and expanding clean electricity will accelerate our progress, while building a more prosperous and competitive future for Canada.”

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The report comes as a new survey from Leger suggests 68 per cent of Canadians would be unwilling to pay higher taxes for gasoline to aid Canada’s net-zero policies. According to the Leger survey, support for higher gas prices was highest in Quebec at 24 per cent.

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That survey suggests the carbon price has led to people adjusting their behaviour. Three in 10 Canadians are travelling less, driving less and keeping their homes cooler in the winter, the survey said.

According to Dave Sawyer, principal economist at the Canadian Climate Institute, the report on the sectors emitting the most shows climate policy should target the most polluting sectors of the economy.

“When emissions from just two sectors, oil and gas and buildings, account for nearly three-quarters of the total increase in emissions last year, policy action for those sectors should be a top priority for all governments in Canada,” he said.

Environmental groups have called on Ottawa to implement a federal cap on oil and gas emissions, that hold the industry accountable.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has said he intends to publish draft regulations this fall to cap emissions from oil and gas production, and then force them downward over time.

Guilbeault hasn’t yet said exactly what the first cap will be, but the Emissions Reduction Plan published in 2022 included a cut of more than 40 per cent to oil and gas emissions by 2030.

Oil groups have pushed back on that proposal, as has Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

Environmental groups say Canada is in a “make or break” moment to mitigate the effects of climate change.

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— with a file from The Canadian Press.

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