May 1, 2006

Ottawa axes funding programs for greenhouse gas reduction

Citing its intention to craft a made-in-Canada plan for reducing greenhouse gases (GHG), the Conservative government is terminating 15 federal programs whose work, it says, has been completed or which require a different approach. Among them is the One-Tonne Challenge, a highly-publicized effort to engage individual Canadians in GHG reduction.

In Parliament last week, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose noted that a comprehensive review of federal climate change programs was begun by the previous government. She added that she and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn are continuing to reviewing recommendations from their respective departments on these programs.

Responding to criticism from opposition MPs that the government is backing away from Canada's Kyoto commitments while offering no firm alternative, Ambrose called the targets set by the previous Liberal government "unachievable and unrealistic."

"We will develop solutions that have clear environmental benefits to Canada and involve all Canadians - provinces, territories, stakeholders, private sector and individuals," Lunn stated. In order to halt the steady rise in Canada's GHG emissions over the past decade, he added, "we need a new approach to addressing climate change that is effective and realistic for Canada. Our government will ensure that resources are spent on programs that work for Canadians."

Whatever form the new GHG reduction plan will take, it evidently will not involve investing in offshore emission reduction projects as a way of accumulating emission reduction credits for Canada. "The difference between the Liberal Kyoto plan and our made-in-Canada solution," said Ambrose, "is that the Liberals were planning on spending billions of dollars to reach targets that are unachievable and most of the money would be spent overseas. We refuse to do that. We will invest in Canadian solutions and in Canadian communities."

Programs being cut and/or wound down, through the departments named, are as follows.

Urban Transportation Showcase Program (Transport Canada): This program supported showcase projects that demonstrated, evaluated and promoted cost-effective strategies for reducing GHG gas emissions from passenger transportation in urban areas. It will be wound down in 2008-2009 to fulfill existing obligations.

Concrete Roads Program (Natural Resources Canada-NRCan): This program was designed to raise awareness of the benefits of concrete roads for emissions reductions in the transportation sector.

Electricity Reduced Trade Barriers Part II (NRCan): This program assessed regulatory and economic issues related to interprovincial electricity trade.

Electricity Reduced Trade Barriers Part III - Consumer Information (NRCan): This program provided an analysis and reporting of environmental information associated with electricity generation.

Environmental Supply Chain Management Pilot Project (Industry Canada): This project was one of the industry cross-cutting measures to encourage Canadian industry to become more energy-efficient.

Feasibility of Afforestation for Carbon Sequestration Initiative (NRCan): This initiative was designed to explore the feasibility of afforestation for carbon sequestration to help offset GHG emissions.

Federal House in Order Leadership Measures - Built Environment (NRCan): This program provided one-time demonstration funding for energy-efficient practices and renewable energy technologies in federal government facilities.

Forest 2020 Plantation Demonstration Assessment (NRCan): This initiative was designed to explore options to attract investment in fast-growing tree plantations for carbon sequestration to help Canada offset its greenhouse gas emissions.

Off-road Vehicle and Equipment Initiative/Off-road CO2 Initiative (Environment Canada): This initiative examined a series of tools to help reduce GHG emissions from off-road vehicles and equipment such as lawnmowers, power boats, mining trucks, bulldozers, snowmobiles and farm tractors. Work in this area will wind down during 2006-2007 to fulfill existing obligations.

On-Site Generation at Federal Facilities (NRCan): This program promoted the adoption of renewable energy technologies for on-site electricity generation in federal operations.

Pilot Emission Removals, Reductions and Learnings Initiative (PERRL - Environment Canada, NRCan): This initiative provided Canadian companies and organizations with an economic incentive to reduce GHG emissions through projects in areas such as methane emissions from landfills, renewable energy and carbon sinks. Through this initiative, the federal government purchased greenhouse gas emissions reductions and removals from qualified projects on a lowest-cost-per-tonne basis. This program will be wound down in 2008-2009 to fulfill existing obligations.

Market Incentive Program (NRCan): The program was intended to encourage electricity marketers in competitive markets to offer customers the choice of purchasing green power. This program will be wound down in 2006-2007 to fulfill existing obligations.

One-Tonne Challenge (NRCan, Environment Canada): This program encouraged individual Canadians to take measures to reduce their personal GHG emissions by 20% or one tonne.

Studies and Monitoring for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program (NRCan): This program was designed to increase knowledge of emissions reduction opportunities. A new approach to this activity is to be determined.

Opportunities Envelope (NRCan, Environment Canada): This program provided funding for cost-shared GHG emissions reduction projects with the provinces and territories. No new activities will be funded, but existing obligations will be met. This program will be wound down in 2006-2007 to fulfill existing obligations.

Ambrose is this year's president of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), whose next summit meeting will be held in mid-May in Bonn, Germany. The Minister pledged to vigorously defend Canada's position on approaching climate change from a realistic and effective plan.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the federal government is contemplating participation in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6), a parallel initiative launched in January by six nations, four of which have also ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Member nations include the U.S., Australia, China, Japan, India and South Korea-all major GHG emitters.

AP6 commits its adherents to accelerating the adoption and expansion of clean technologies and industrial processes and improved energy efficiency to reduce GHG emissions. It provides for collaboration among governments, industry and research organizations to invest in practical, economically sustainable innovations to address climate change. Although AP6 sets no firm GHG reduction targets or schedules, it is significant in offering major industry sectors such as electricity, mining, aluminum, cement, steel, finance and renewable energy a high level of input into developing climate change strategies.

Environmental organizations, however, are rejecting the government's assertion that Canada cannot meet its Kyoto target. In response to Ottawa's promise of a plan that will be more successful in cutting GHG emissions, members of the Canadian Climate Action Network/RĂˆseau Action Climat - Canada (CAN-RAC) released a "Top Ten" list of measures they want to see reflected in the forthcoming federal budget.

"There is no justification for any further delay in regulating industrial greenhouse gas emissions, and providing effective incentives for energy efficiency, wind power and other renewable energy technologies. These measures will get results," said CAN-RAC chair David Coon. "The Prime Minister's plan to start from scratch is simply an excuse not to try."

CAN-RAC members take an equally dim view of the government's rejection of funding for projects in developing countries as part of a GHG strategy. "Canada can meet its Kyoto target if it takes urgent action to cut emissions in Canada and in poorer countries. Parliament must intervene to maintain funding for climate change science, education and mitigation programs and ensure Canada's climate change efforts are expanded, not reduced." said Matthew Bramley, director, climate change at the Pembina Institute.

The climate change actions sought by CAN-RAC address industry, transportation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, financial incentives, federal support for provincial measures, international credits, maintenance (or increasing) of federal funding for scientific research on climate change, and public education.

Among the actions called for are:

1. a timeline for introducing draft and final regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to set mandatory GHG targets for industry such that the targets can begin to apply on January 1, 2008;

2. an announcement either that the April 2005 voluntary Memorandum of Understanding with automakers on tailpipe GHG emissions will be maintained and enforced or that it will be replaced by regulated vehicle efficiency standards of equal or greater force meeting the same timeline;

3. confirmation that existing programs such as EnerGuide for Houses and standards under Canada's energy efficiency regulations will be strengthened, with funding and timing details to make this happen;

4. provision of a timeline for expanding the Wind Power Production Incentive and introducing the Renewable Power Production Incentive programs (two climate change programs which were at an advanced stage of development but had not yet been implemented at the time of the election in January);

5. allocation of federal funding to support key provincial measures to reduce GHG emissions, at a level sufficient to enable immediate implementation of such measures (e.g. improvements to building codes, energy conservation programs and investments in clean energy infrastructure); and

6. funding for climate change science research and for public education programs equal to or greater than past levels.

The full list, accompanied by background information, may be viewed on the Pembina Institute Web site, www.pembina.org.

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