Thursday, May 17, 2012

Canada can't achieve its greenhouse gas goals?

Like many other countries that signed and ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol - which entered into force in Feb 2005 - Canada, too, set its target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 17% of 2005 levels. Greenhouse gases released from industries are responsible for global warming.

Recent report by AFP however, stated that Canada may fail to reach its target for reducing GHG emissions by 2020. In fact emissions will actually increase by 7% over the 2005 levels, according to the report.

Canada greenhouse gas goals
Northern Alberta oil sand fields in Fort McMurray (photo: AFP, David Boily)

Reasons for unattainable goals

a) government's approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions - centralised at federal level
b) several years is needed for regulations to be developed and to have an impact

The government said it would change its strategy through sector-by-sector regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. This is contrary to the existing federal regulations which are expected to reduce emissions by only 11 - 13 million tonnes in 2020. This is in comparison to a targeted 178 tonnes of additional reduction.

Costly to comply with Kyoto Protocol?

Canada withdrew from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was extended last year, saying that it would be too costly to the Canadian economy to remain in it. In retrospect it will work on reducing GHG emissions through least costly options.Other options were not immediately made known but we hope that Canadian Government, and other industrialised nations would commit to its pledge although results may fall short of goals set.

Our perspectives

Malaysia government pledged to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% of 2005 levels by the year 2020, subject to assistance from developed countries. This was announced by Prime Minister, Najib Razak during the UN Climate Change Summit, Copenhagen in 2009.

Browse through the list of Who's On Board With The Copenhagen Accord and you will see that Malaysia is one of the late comers in making decision to commit itself to the Copenhagen Accord.

Our country has a relatively weak environmental policy regarding climate change; we know we have short and medium-term targets but they are hardly ambitious. Renewable Energy Act 2011 emphasized the role played by renewable energies as the fifth fuel in the national generation mix but the implementation of RE initiatives is rather slow.

There are no official statistics yet to gauge Malaysia's achievement in reducing GHG emissions but the lack of plans and fundings for emission-reduction-related projects and initiatives show our lack of commitment to the cause.

But I suppose it is not just Canada and us. A report by International Energy Agency (IEA) stated that, globally, greenhouse gas emissions went up instead of down despite 20 years of effort. IEA said energy-related carbon emissions in 2010 topped 30 gigatonnes, which is 5% more than the previous record in 2008. Another record for the wrong reason.

Keep the Earth's temperature down

The ultimate goal is clear: Keep earth's average temperature to 2oC (3.8 F) above pre-industrial levels. Scientists believe that temperature rise beyond this could lead to catastrophic climate shifts affecting water supplies and global agriculture, setting off more frequent and fierce storms and causing a rise in sea levels. This will ultimately put our coastlines in danger.

Reference and further reading:

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