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Stephen Harper is blowing smoke on greenhouse gases

Prime Minister Stephen Harper compared apples to coal on Monday in an unsuccessful attempt to get out of a jam. It started when the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. announced historic reductions in carbon emissions by slashing pollution from America’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions: coal-fired power plants, representing 38% of total CO2 emissions in that […]

Prime Minister Stephen Harper compared apples to coal on Monday in an unsuccessful attempt to get out of a jam.

It started when the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. announced historic reductions in carbon emissions by slashing pollution from America’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions: coal-fired power plants, representing 38% of total CO2 emissions in that country.

The plan will cut coal pollution by 30% under 2005 levels, aimed at curbing the effects of climate change. This means the U.S. will meet its target under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels in 2020.

It’s a very different story in Canada, where pollution from coal power plants represents only 11% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. The largest contributor to GHG emissions in Canada, representing 25% of all emissions, is the oil and gas industry.

So what is Harper doing to go after the country’s largest emitters? Well, nothing. After promising years ago to bring in regulations for the oil and gas sector, they still haven’t been tabled.

But back in 2009 at Copenhagen, Harper pledged to match America’s emissions targets (17% below 2005 levels in 2020) — and qualified this by saying Canada would only take action to reduce our emissions if America took action first:

“If the Americans don’t act, it will severely limit our ability to act. But if the Americans do act, it is absolutely essential that we act in concert.”

That’s pretty clear, right? Well, apparently not.

Instead, Harper explained in the House of Commons on Monday that Canada had already brought in regulations to reduce greenhouse gases from coal power plants, so this was all a non-issue (even though the equivalent comparison would be regulations for the oil and gas sector to reduce climate pollution.)

“We welcome the announcement by the Obama administration on greenhouse gases from power plants. Once again, to correct the leader of the NDP, we actually announced the regulation of this sector two years ago, Mr. Speaker, but under the regulations that this government has already brought forward, we will have 150% larger reductions than those in the United States.”

Here are a few numbers that show why Harper’s dodging the real issue:

20%

According to data from Environment Canada, Canada is projected to finish the decade producing 20% more greenhouse gas emissions than it pledged to cut at the 2009 Copenhagen Accord.

“Ottawa has done nothing over the past year to change this trajectory: there is not a single new policy on the list of federal intitiatives to reduce emissions in Canada,” reports PJ Partington of the Pembina Institute. “In fact, the gap between where we are headed and where we should be headed has grown slightly in the past year.” 

Check out this chart supplied by Pembina:

50

Despite Canada’s reliance on dirty coal being proportionately smaller than the US and despite Harper patting himself on the back, the truth is Harper’s regulations on coal power plants aren’t very ambitious and, in fact, won’t yield full results for 50 years.

And even then, the government weakened regulations and pushed benchmarks back by decades:

And if that’s not enough, check out the video of what Harper said in 2009 versus what he’s saying about it now:

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