Friday, June 10, 2011

Canada upsets other countries at climate negotiations

Though news of Canada's selective emissions reporting drew little attention here at home, other countries took notice. From Post Media News:

OTTAWA — Foreign diplomats bombarded Canadian climate change negotiators with questions Thursday in Bonn, Germany, as they challenged the Harper government's transparency and policies to fight global warming.

In the wake of media coverage highlighting missing and conflicting information in an Environment Canada submission to the United Nations, officials from Australia, China, Lebanon, the United Kingdom and the Philippines questioned government policies regarding fossil fuel subsidies and the Alberta "tarsands," a lack of investment in clean energy and the scientific evidence used to determine its greenhouse gas emissions target...

Representatives from other countries pounced on Canada after Michael Keenan, an assistant deputy minister at Environment Canada, delivered a presentation suggesting that the government was showing "significant ambition" in its proposal to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions.

But his presentation appeared to generate more questions than answers.

"I was also struck that the colleague from Canada didn't refer to the tarsands issue or at least only once in passing," said Peter Betts, the lead European Union negotiator and a director at the United Kingdom's Department of Energy and Climate Change, during the session. "This has been an issue featured much in the press, and I know there have been allegations from the press that the emissions from that sector have not been included in Canada's inventory (report submission to the UN)."

His remarks were followed by a delegate from Australia — traditionally a Canadian ally at climate negotiations — who questioned how Canada could increase its "level of ambition" when it was turning away from engaging international markets. Lebanon also jumped in, questioning the pace of a commitment to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels, including the "tarsands," and raising doubts about Canada's intention to harmonize its policies with the U.S. without matching its partner's proportion of investments in clean energy.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Honesty in Canadian emissions reporting

For five years, Canadian government represnetatives have claimed they are meeting all the obligations under the Kyoto Protocol... except the emissions target. In other words, Canada has met the reporting deadlines but achieved little else. The claim has been subject of much ridicule, here and elsewhere. [it is, incidentally, a classic and well-documented problem with international policy; governments viewing success as filling out the paperwork, not achieving the goals of the actual policy]

It turns out, we are now aren't even filling out the paperwork properly:

OTTAWA — The federal government has acknowledged that it deliberately excluded data indicating a 20 per cent increase in annual pollution from Canada’s oilsands industry in 2009 from a recent 567-page report on climate change that it was required to submit to the United Nations...

The numbers, uncovered by Postmedia News, were left out of the report, a national inventory on Canada’s greenhouse gas pollution. It revealed a six per cent drop in annual emissions for the entire economy from 2008 to 2009, but does not directly show the extent of pollution from the oilsands production, which is greater than the greenhouse gas emissions of all the cars driven on Canadian roads.

... Environment Canada provided the oilsands numbers in response to questions from Postmedia News about why it had omitted the information from its report after publishing more detailed data in previous years. A department spokesman explained that “some” of the information was still available in the latest report, which still meets Canada’s reporting obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“The information is presented in this way to be consistent with UNFCCC reporting requirements, which are divided into broad, international sectors,” wrote Mark Johnson in an email.
He was not immediately able to answer questions about who made the decision in government to exclude the numbers from the oilsands or provide a detailed explanation about changes in emissions.

To be fair, maybe this is a common problem this past year, and the reporting by other UNFCCC signatories  was also limited or delayed.
Although the report was due in April, during the last election campaign, Canada was the last country to file its submission. Environment Canada even filed its submission after earthquake-stricken Japan, and was unable to explain in detail why its report was late.