Thursday, February 05, 2009

Auditor General questions Canada's climate policy

Say what you will about the Canadian system of government, but it excels at producing investigations, inquiries and audits. For example, Canada's auditor general regularly issues reports on whether government policies are achieving the proposed results.

The following are excerpts from a report just released by Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the auditor charged with evaluated federal policies to control air (pollution and greenhouse gas) emissions. They reveal a depressing lack of effort and commitment even to the weak emissions reductions policies of the current government.

1.35 In its March 2007 Budget, the federal government announced a transfer of $1.519 billion to provincial and territorial governments under the Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is an element of Turning the Corner, a government initiative described by Environment Canada as "Canada's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution." Both the 2007 Budget and Turning the Corner state that the Trust Fund will yield real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants. No expected reductions from the Trust Fund were quantified in these documents.

1.39 Analysis supporting Environment Canada's expected greenhouse gas emission reductions is weak. There are problems in how the 80 megatonnes of expected reductions against the Trust Fund for the years 2008 to 2012 were derived. The Department conducted almost no analysis to support that figure, and did not perform key types of analysis. The little analysis it did undertake is based on flawed assumptions—for example, that all provinces and territories face identical opportunities, challenges, and economic conditions for achieving emission reductions. Since the basis for the estimate is flawed, we cannot determine what a reasonable range of expected results should have been.

1.40 Environment Canada cannot monitor or verify the Trust Fund results. In our December 2008 Auditor General's Report, Chapter 1, A Study of Federal Transfers to the Provinces and Territories, we note that the provinces and territories frequently have no legal obligation to spend sums transferred to them through a trust fund for the purpose announced by the federal government. Provinces and territories also frequently have no legal obligation to report to the federal government on how the money was spent and what was achieved. Environment Canada has acknowledged that the provincial and territorial governments are accountable only to their own constituencies for expenditures and results under the Trust Fund, not to the federal government. The Department has not developed and implemented even a voluntary system for monitoring greenhouse gas emission reductions under the Trust Fund. Nevertheless, Environment Canada made a claim of expected results in 2007 and repeated it in 2008, knowing that the nature of the Trust Fund makes it very unlikely that the Department can report real, measurable, and verifiable results.

1.59 Estimates by Environment Canada indicate that the Public Transit Tax Credit will lead to negligible reductions in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. Equally questionable is the impact of the Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund, which transfers over $1.519 billion to the provinces and territories to help them lower greenhouse gas emissions. Environment Canada has estimated that the initiative will lead to emission reductions totalling 80 megatonnes from 2008 to 2012. However, it has arrived at that figure on the basis of flawed analyses. The government has stated that it does not intend to monitor whether targets are achieved because it does not have access to the necessary information and cannot control what the recipient governments do with the funding. Environment Canada made a claim of expected results in 2007 and repeated it in 2008, knowing that the nature of the Trust Fund makes it very unlikely that the Department can report real, measurable, and verifiable results.


crf said...

Hi, this is off-topic, but could you comment on the way the Genome Canada story is taking hold in the press, about Genome Canada, as reported in the Globe, being "The only agency that regularly finances large-scale science in Canada" (Carolyn Abraham, Globe and Mail Jan 29, 2009)

Today, the Vancouver Sun printed a guest editorial from the ottawa citizen, repeating the claim that orginally appeared in the Globe and Mail story.

When the story was first reported, I though it was a typo when it said that Genome Canada was the only organisation funding large scale science in Canada (Period), and that the author meant to report that it was the only such organisation in Canada funding large scale research in Genomics.

Clearly the story has taken a life of its own. I think the claim is not true. What immediately springs to mind: HIA (part of NRC), the Canadia Space Agency, Triumph, the Canadian Light source, The foundation for innovation, Neptune ...

That what I thought was a typo gets to be repeated, uncorrected; whole press theses built upon it, really, show that the press have let alone a very poor understanding of the details of how science is funded in the Canada, but any understanding that large science projects, other than genomics, exist in this country!

It's sad.

Toronto Real Estate said...

One answer to the reduction of emissions would be higher carbon tax. Essentially more money would be given to the government to spend on saving the climate projects and companies paying the tax would reduce the emissions greatly. Just like Mr. Obama proposed the idea of pollution surcharges, Canada needs to endorse Obamas plan and get serious on the environment with a proper balanced approach.

Take care, Julie