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by Stephen Leahy

Canada Following Bush Lead In Attacking Science

(IPS) -- Environmentalists are criticizing a Canadian proposal to reduce greenhouse houses by 20 percent by 2020, saying the proposal is even weaker than last year's "green plan," which was widely rejected.

The new proposal, titled "Turn the Corner," is the Canadian government's third climate action plan in less than two years.

"That would leave Canada 11 percent above its Kyoto commitments many years after the country is legally obligated to meet them," said John Bennett of the Climate Action Network Canada, a coalition of environmental groups.

"This government is all about pretending to reduce emissions," Bennett said.

In a statement, Canada's Environment Minister John Baird said, "Winter is disappearing as we know it" and then acknowledged that Canada has "one of the worst environmental records among industrialized countries."

The "Turn the Corner" plan recognizes the urgent need to take action, "while also respecting our responsibility to keep Canadian families working," Baird said. There was little mention of the Kyoto Protocol, whose reduction targets the present Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said are unrealistic.

"This is not Canada turning the corner but Canada turning its back on the world," said Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.

Before Canada became a major oil exporter it had been a champion of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce emissions. Under that agreement, 35 industrialized nations are obligated to reduce emissions by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by the 2008-2012 period.

Canada went one better and agreed to reach 6 percent by 2012.

What a difference a decade makes.

Now more than 2 million barrels of crude flows from the northern oil sands regions of Alberta province south to the U.S. state of Texas and elsewhere for processing into gasoline for the ever-growing U.S. market.

Extracting crude from Canada's oil sands -- deposits of bitumen, heavy, black viscous oil -- is expensive and highly polluting, so much so that the region is now the single largest and fastest growing source of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

Not surprisingly Canada's emissions have shot up 30 to 35 percent since 1990 -- twice the U.S. increase in emissions over the same period.

A $110 billion expansion currently under way will triple oil sands output by 2020. The oil sands represent the largest pool of oil reserves outside of the Middle East.

"For just one or two dollars a barrel, oil sands production could become carbon neutral," Climate Action's Bennett said.

He was referring to a cost analysis done by the Alberta-based nongovernmental Pembina Institute that showed the oil sands sector could reduce, offset and sequester all of its greenhouse emissions by 2020 at a cost of $1.75 per barrel.

Under the "Turn the Corner" plan, the oil sands sector, along with other major industrial emitters of climate-changing gases, will be required to make cuts based on intensity, or the emissions per volume of production. Companies must cut that intensity by 6 percent a year over the next three years and by 2 percent a year after that.

However, new facilities -- such as expansion of oil sands processing -- will have a three-year grace period.

Companies will also be able to choose between various ways of meeting their emission targets, including actual reductions, using a domestic emissions-trading system, or contributing to a technology fund. Other sectors such as cement, pulp and paper and lime, receive exemptions.

"This is more about protecting the oil sands than it is about trying to reduce greenhouse emissions," Bennett said.

It's also designed to fool Canadians into thinking their government is taking real action agree Bennett and May.

Canada's choice of a 20-percent reduction by 2020 appears to be the same as the European Union target, except the EU's baseline year is 1990 and Canada's is 2006.

"I have never dealt with a more partisan government, everything is about politics" Bennett said.

"Even worse, they think people are stupid and will believe stupid things."

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Albion Monitor   April 29, 2007   (

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