Friday, October 20, 2006

Canada's new greenhouse gas targets

A recent news article described a proposed greenhouse gas target for Canada:
Canada will aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming by 45-65 percent by 2050, ... The bill introduced Thursday in the House of Commons would also apply intensity-based targets until 2020, allowing emissions to continue to rise until then.
There're actually a lot of advantages of this target over something like Kyoto. First, it sets a definite long-term target, which Kyoto does not. This provides a more stable environment for people and companies to make investments in emissions reducing technology. Second, it allows emissions to grow in the near term, i.e., does not require sharp near-term cuts in emissions, as Kyoto does. Most economists agree that allowing some near-term growth followed by steeper cuts later provides the lowest cost trajectory to get to your preferred emissions level.

The downside of a longer term target is that it can be used as a stalling tactic if the administration really doesn't want to do anything about the problem. However, one need not wait long to find out if that's the case. While some emissions growth can be tolerated near-term, deviations from business-as-usual need to occur within a few years to hit the target in 2050 at minimum cost. Thus, if Canada is serious about this, we need to see some near-term actions relatively soon.

Finally, the target is not quite ambitious enough. In order to stabilize the climate at around 550 ppmv (i.e., double pre-industrial CO2), we need to reduce world emissions to about 2 GtC/yr, about 80% less than we're emittiong today. Their target, 45-65% reductions, would not be sufficient to do this if applied to the entire world.


Acteon said...

My take on it is that as a step it is in the right direction. Just as Kyoto in itself was never going to be enough in reducing emissions. Kyoto was more an agreement that the problem was real and action was required.

The last few years science has moved on and the case for global warming has been made much stronger. There is also a much stronger support throughout the general population for actions. A willingness to do something.

When more contries come out with steps such as this one it will be easier to make the step to real actions in reducing CO2 emissions.

We do have to start acting soon, but I am hopeful that we have reached a tipping point in the fight for carbon controls...

hswiseman said...

90 percent of the Canadians are huddled within 50 miles of the US Border, much like my kiddos hunkered around the one forced hot air heater after a midnight arrival at the ski house. The Canadians should welcome a warmup but they won't. Go figure.