Canada's leadership is failing to uphold international commitments to reduce the country's emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This failure on the global stage is the direct result of Canada's domestic policies, according to the Canadian Youth Delegation to COP18's recent report “Commitment Issues.”
Canada's determination to develop Alberta's tar sands constitutes the nation's primary obstacle to progress on climate action. Bitumen extraction in the region “invalidates Canada's commitment to limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius since pre-industrial times and sets a dangerous global precedent for extreme extraction,” the report states.
The Canadian government has participated in several significant international agreements and treaties aimed at reducing global levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, given the country's aggressive oil and gas development, these agreements only serve to highlight Canada's disregard for, rather than participation in, international efforts to prevent dangerous global warming.
During 2009's COP15
summit, Canada assented to the Copenhagen Accord
, which recognizes “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius” and holds that participating parties “agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC
[Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] Fourth Assessment Report
with a view to reduce global emissions…and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity.”
was held in Cancun the following year, Canada signed a similar statement, urging “developed country Parties to increase the ambition of their economy-wide emission reduction targets, with a view to reducing their aggregate anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.”
Environment Minister Peter Kent stated at last year's COP17
that “Canada believes that the Cancun Agreements, adopted at COP16
and flowing from the Copenhagen Accord, do provide a sound conceptual and practical framework to advance our collective engagement to address climate change…Again, Canada supports the blueprint put forward at Cancun.”
In particular, Canada's commitment to the Copenhagen Accord required a 17 percent reduction in emissions by 2020, based on a 2005 benchmark. While other countries are committed to reduction levels based on a 1990 benchmark, Canada chose a more lenient baseline, which in effect allowed for an additional 3 percent increase in emissions over 1990 levels. Canada's refusal to match the efforts of other countries - like the entire European Union including Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland - means international efforts are thwarted by bad behaviour.
Despite its unambitious targets, however, Canada has failed to make any meaningful progress to achieve emissions reductions and is on a steady path to miss future targets.
As outlined in the report, “The principal reason for this projected failure for Canada to meet its targets is the rapid growth of bitumen mining in northern Alberta (Figure 1). Without tar sands development, continued emissions reductions would be readily
achievable. With continued development and expansion, Canada will not only to miss its target but to increase its emissions.”
The tar sands represent Canada's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Industry projections suggest that oil production, which currently hovers around 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd), is expected to increase to 7.1 million bpd in coming decades.
However, this report suggests “emissions from tar sands development are poised to single-handedly exceed the warming limit to which Canada agreed as part of the Copenhagen Accord.”
“The high-emissions example Canada has set may have dangerous ramifications across the international community.”
As Canada prepares to once again fail the international community on the public stage, the Canadian Youth Delegation is prepared to make the bold recommendations national leaders are not.
“In order to fulfill its international commitments to CO2 emissions reductions and avoid setting a dangerous precedent for extreme extraction, Canada must limit bitumen mining effort and place a moratorium on new tar sands developments.”