Canada gives short shrift to UN climate critics

Published 16:29 on June 2, 2015  /  Last updated at 20:57 on June 2, 2015  / Stian Reklev /  Americas, Canada, Climate Talks, International

Canada has responded to a host of questions over its climate policies in a UN policy review, but cold-shouldered the most critical queries, dismissing suggestions its policies are unambitious and that its climate accounting is dubious.

Canada has responded to a host of questions over its climate policies in a UN policy review, but cold-shouldered the most critical queries by dismissing suggestions that its policies lack ambition and its climate accounting is dubious.

The Q&A was part of a UN policy review of climate policies in developed nations, to which most nations replied by the May 28 deadline.

Canada’s responses, submitted on June 1 and posted on a UN website Tuesday, sought to fend off a number of critical questions from nations such as Brazil, China and Sweden.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has been subject to criticism after it withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011, but despite being on track to miss its target of cutting GHG emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, Canada was in no mood to offer concessions to international critics.

Among the many questions submitted illustrating the international doubt over Canada’s climate ambitions, was this from Brazil:

“Since 2005, total Canadian GHG emissions have decreased by 35.7 Mt (4.8%), but if the emissions related to 2011 are compared to the emissions in 1990, they have increased by 33%. Emission reduction target is 17% below 2005 by 2020. If the target is compared to 1990, there will be an emissions increase of 25%. Considering the low level of ambition presented until now, does Canada intend to change the target in order to increase the level of ambition?”

To which Canada responded: “Canada’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 is an ambitious target,” a line repeated frequently by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq since Canada introduced its INDC last month.

Canada also shrugged off a pointed question from Sweden, asking it to outline policies to reduce emissions from its oil sands extraction.

“On May 15, 2015, the Government of Canada announced its intention to develop new regulations, including regulations to reduce emissions of methane, a potent GHG, from the oil and gas sector,” Canada responded, even though the plan it referred to was widely considered to all but exempt the country’s oilsand industry from any responsibility in helping Canada meet its 2030 carbon target.

“Given the integration of the Canadian and American energy sectors, regulatory action in this area would be aligned with recently proposed actions in the United States to ensure Canadian companies remain competitive within the North American marketplace,” the latest Canadian submission said.

It did, however, suggest that yet-to-be-defined federal policies or provincial measures might help it cut emissions beyond what it has currently reported to the UN.

“The 2020 emissions projections included in Canada’s First Biennial Report do not include the impact of future federal regulations that are currently being considered nor the impact of policies and measures being developed by provincial and territorial governments,” it said in a response to a question from New Zealand about the possibility of using international offsets.


The majority of the questions were directed at Canada’s LULUCF accounting rules which, unlike other nations, take into account deforestation from what Canada defines as “natural disturbances”.

A May report by Climate Action Tracker said the accounting method would produce carbon credits in the region of 19 million tonnes of CO2e per year for Canada, whereas the more internationally-accepted accounting method would yield anything between a 6 million tonnes surplus and a 2 million tonnes deficit, with annual variances.

“Canada will continue to exclude emissions from natural disturbances,” the submission said.

“Although estimates from managed land are intended to represent only ‘anthropogenic’ impacts, Canada’s reported inventory estimates from managed forests include the impacts of natural disturbances, including insect infestations and areas burned by wildfire. Therefore, Canada applies accounting provisions to exclude the impact of natural disturbances,” it added.

By Stian Reklev –