Report to recommend Ottawa take action on global warming

Sep 26, 2006 02:00 AM

The Auditor-General's office will recommend that the Conservative government introduce tough new measures to fight global warming, noting that Alberta's expanding oil-sands development is significantly increasing greenhouse-gas emissions.
The report by the office's Commissioner of the Environment will call for "real, measurable [and] verifiable" emissions reductions by the oil and gas sectors. It will urge the creation of an emissions trading system, where companies in certain sectors are given a financial incentive to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the main causes of global warning. Companies that better their targets are generally allowed to sell credits to firms that have not.

The internal government report summarizes the finds of Commissioner Johanne Gelinas, who will also chastise the previous Liberal government for falling behind on its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol because of poor management and lack of action.
"Oil and gas production, particularly the rapid development of the Canadian oil sands, is significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions," states the summary report. "Yet there are few federal efforts under way to reduce these emissions, and those efforts have had minimal results to date."

Ms Gelinas will urge the government to "commit sufficient resources to develop, implement, and evaluate the [emissions trading] system." The three opposition parties all support the regulation and trading of carbon dioxide. But the approach would likely be unpopular in Alberta, where the Conservatives hold all the federal seats.
Because the report criticizes the previous Liberal government, Conservatives were hoping the Liberals would be on the defensive when the government released its own environmental plan shortly afterward. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has said that Canada cannot meet its Kyoto obligations in the current phase, which ends in 2012, but that he will continue talks about Canada's participation in the next phase.

The Commissioner's report will confirm that Canada is not on track to meet its targets of reducing greenhouse gases to 6 % below 1990 levels. But rather than providing an excuse for the Conservatives to scrap existing programs, Ms Gelinas is expected to call for a major strengthening of policies promised by the Liberals.
She is expected to find a failure to address weaknesses in the government's climate-change policies, such as a lack of accountability for how money is spent. According to the summary, the Commissioner found that "no effective system is in place to track and report on expenditures, performance and results." The Liberals will also be chastised for failing to produce a plan for adapting to climate change.

European countries use a carbon market as the main method for complying with the international Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Europe's carbon market is being expanded to include more sectors of the economy.
Emissions trading was part of the previous Liberal government's plan to complywith Kyoto, but the plan had yet to be set up when Parliament changed hands in January.

The Liberals had taken the first step toward capping emissions by adding carbon dioxide as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) just prior to their defeat. That left the Conservatives with the legal tools to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, but sources say the Conservatives will not use CEPA to do so.
Instead, a new bill called the Clean Air Act is to be used to regulate smog-causing substances, and cabinet has yet to decide whether the government will also use its new bill to regulate carbon dioxide.

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