The Doha Conference: Canada’s Credibility

Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister, has to handle all the tough roles.  Last year at Durban he had to tell the world that Canada was not signing on for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Convention. He had to follow that announcement with a statement that Canada was going to withdraw from the Convention at the end of 2012.

This year at Doha he had to tell the developing nations that until a new Convention was signed Canada was not prepared to commit more money to assist them in mitigating the effects of climate change and minimizing GreenHouse Gas emissions. Some of the “developing countries” don’t need help but many others do.

Recently Minister Kent stated – obviously for the benefit of a Canadian audience – that Canada was half-way to meeting its Copenhagen pledge to reduce emissions. Many green organizations in Canada questioned the basis for such a positive statement.

Unfortunately for Minister Kent his statement went global.  Climate Action Tracker, a well respected scientific community, has been monitoring the performance of the major emitting countries. In a report released at a pre-Doha meeting Climate Action Tracker had this to say about Canada:

Is Canada really halfway to meeting its target? 

In a recent speech, Environment Minister of Canada Peter Kent claimed that “Canada is now halfway to its target of reducing GHG emissions by 17% below 2005 levels.”

We have taken a closer look at this claim and find that is not correct. We find that emission trends from both 2011 and 2012 indicate that, without further measures, Canada will not meet its target in 2020.  At present Canada is only a third of the way towards its target of 17% below 2005 levels. Canada’s emissions in 2010 were 692 MtCO2e, a decrease of 6% below 2005 emissions level. 

The claim that Canada is halfway to meeting its targets comes from comparing apples and oranges:  it relies on a change in projections from one year to another, which results in lower projected emissions, due to  the  recession,  and changes in emission data (inventory) and methodology. Given the changes in emissions in 2010 and changes in LULUCF accounting rules, our analysis concludes that more than half of the difference between 2011 and 2012 projections for 2020 can be attributed to artifacts of accounting rules and not to projected climate/decarbonisation policies to be implemented by the government.

To drive home this message, the scientists of Climate Action Tracker rated all countries in an extensive report circulated at Doha.  This report describes Canada’s claims in the following language:

The CAT analysis of Canada’s latest “Emissions Trends Report” has found that, in a number of different ways, the statistics presented by the Canadian Government don’t add up to the claims it has made and that a number of open questions remain unanswered.

  • While the Government claims that Canada is “halfway” toward meeting its pledge,  the figures show that it’s actually only one third of the way there  compared to current emissions levels.
  • Canada has started factoring in LULUCF (Land use, land use change and forestry) to its emissions projections.  They do however not provide full clarity on which accounting rules they are going to use in the future,  leaving huge uncertainty.
  • Canada has been using current data and measuring it against old projections,  which makes its data look better, but does nothing for the climate.
  • It has also begun using a methodology previously only used by developing countries: measuring against Business as Usual (BAU) projections.  But it uses old BAU projections, but even then its pledge is only equal to  Mexico’s pledge, with Brazil doing better.

Neither Minister Kent nor any of his Senior Department Officials, nor other members of Canada’s negotiating team at Doha have publicly commented on these observations.  Silence is probably the best course of action.  The Doha Conference is not receiving much coverage in the Canadian Press. So the Minister will treat the issue as a controversy about methodology and wait until the ruckus blows over.

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