Canada should sign the Kyoto Protocol if for no other reason than to give it moral clout in persuading developing countries to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, says a leading emissions expert.
Even though Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions represent only about two per cent of total global output, John Drexhage of the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development said reducing those emissions will enable Canada to urge others to do the same.
“We’ll be able to say: ‘Look at what we did, and without sacrificing economic growth,’ ” he told a seminar audience last week in Edmonton.
Rick Hyndman of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said his industry recognizes that GHG emissions must be reduced globally for the good of the whole world – but through an achievable “made-in-Canada” plan.
The two men outlined their positions for more than 100 people Friday at a seminar sponsored by the Centre for Executive and Management Development of the University of Alberta School of Business.
“What is their (industry’s) made-in-Canada target?” asked Drexhage, who proceeded to answer his own question.
“They don’t have one. They can’t get one. They’ll never get an agreement because 90 per cent of CAPP members are opposed to Kyoto.”
Hyndman countered that CAPP members are serious about reducing emissions. “I sit in on meetings three or four times a week with them, and I sometimes wonder who’s running their company, because they’re here,” he said.
As for actual industry targets, he added: “Industry’s position has always been that, if we have a target, we want flexibility in how we reach that target.”
Both men agreed that reducing greenhouse gases is a global problem that requires the commitment and involvement of the whole world.
But Drexhage said he believes that Canada can’t refuse to sign on to Kyoto because countries such as China and India are not required to reduce their emissions, whereas, Hyndman says, the fact that the United States and Australia are refusing to sign the accord should be cause for Canada to reconsider.
A senior policy adviser on climate change for CAPP, Hyndman said that Canada’s goal of reducing emissions by six per cent of 1990 levels can’t be achieved by 2010, the target date.
Even if Canada doesn’t meet its objective, Drexhage, director of climate change and energy strategic objective for the institute, said he was sure other signatories to the Kyoto Protocol would understand if Canada did its best to meet the target.
That drew an immediate response from Hyndman. “That’s part of the problem. The people in our industry are business people who are used to signing contracts. When they sign a contract, they know they have to live up to it.
“Why would you sign a contract if you know that you can’t live up to it?”
Prime Minister Jean Chretien has said the government is going to ratify Kyoto by the end of the year.
The speakers also differed over such issues as buying emissions credits from countries such as Russia if Canadian firms can’t meet their targets.
“Why should our companies be forced to buy emissions credits that will enrich other countries?” said Hyndman. Money should instead be used to fund research and development to reduce GHG emissions in Canada, he added.
Drexhage noted the emissions trading plan includes provisions that the country receiving credits must use that money towards improving its own recycling and energy efficiency efforts.
Meanwhile, at another forum held at the University of Calgary last week, provincial Energy Minister Murray Smith said investors and consumers are growing increasingly anxious about Kyoto’s impact on the Alberta economy.
“We’re already feeling the Kyoto chill,” Smith told the crowd, referring to several oil industry projects – including plans by Canadian Natural Resources and TrueNorth Energy – that have either been shelved or delayed until more details emerge on Canada’s approach to the accord.
“A made-in-Canada solution is better, because it’s not based on fantasy that Canada can cure the world’s problems,” Smith added.
When pressed by an audience member on the fact GHG emissions will actually rise under the Alberta plan, Smith agreed that would be the case.
|Alberta Energy Minister Murray Smith|
But, he added, “reducing emissions intensity will result in a real reduction of emissions, but without preventing the economy from growing.”
Another speaker in the audience lambasted Smith for going too easy on pro-Kyoto forces.
“You have allowed propaganda to take over where science should be applied. You have allowed these people without science on their side to fight this battle,” he said.
The Alberta government says it will legislate its plan to reduce GHG emissions in this fall’s sitting of the provincial legislature. The Climate Change and Emissions Management Act will set out goals, targets and a framework of action.
A study released last week by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation predicted a 5.5-per-cent drop in “real” household incomes – about $2,700 for the average family – starting in 2010 as a result of implementation of the Kyoto strategy.
“In light of the fact that Kyoto yields no economic or environmental benefits, this is obviously a bad deal for Canadian households and should be rejected,” said Ross McKitrick, a professor at the University of Guelph.
The CTF is also calling for a referendum, saying the Kyoto issue is as important as the free-trade agreement.
A group of Canadian and international science and energy experts are also urging a delay in ratifying the accord “until proper consultation is undertaken.”
“Climate science is too immature to justify Kyoto,” said Tim Patterson, a Carleton University professor of earth sciences (paleoclimatology).
“While we are all working towards improving the environment, the scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that climate change is nowhere near as drastic as special interest groups have painted it to be,” Patterson told a news conference in Ottawa last week.
“On the contrary, our current environment is following a pattern one would expect due to entirely natural causes.”
The scientists – who spoke to the press at a conference sponsored in part by Imperial Oil and Talisman – disputed the federal government’s statements about climate change and the damage human-induced GHG emissions may cause the environment.
Changes in the sun’s intensity, not carbon-dioxide levels, is a far more significant driver of climate, argued Sallie Baliunas, a senior scientist at George C. Marshall Institute in the U.S.
But a spokesman for Green-peace noted five of the scientists involved in the conference have in the past received funding from Exxon. Imperial Oil, which owns Esso, is 70 per cent owned by Exxon-Mobil, said David Fields of Greenpeace Canada.
“Esso keeps rolling out the same professional skeptics to spout lies about Kyoto,” said Fields.
(With files from Business Edge)