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The smokestack from the Domtar pulp mill Thursday Sept. 25, 2008 in Kamloops B.C. Canada could come close to hitting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission targets by nationally adopting strategies British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec already have in place, a new study has found.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Canada could come close to hitting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission targets by nationally adopting strategies British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec already have in place, a new study has found.

The report comes as world leaders convene in Lima at a United Nations climate-change conference and follows the release Monday of an Environment Canada update that confirms Canada is far behind targets set by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009.

Canada's goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels, but Environment Canada projects the country will only get half way to that goal under current practices.

However, the David Suzuki Foundation report, released Wednesday, states that by using provincial strategies that have been shown to work, Canada could come within 5.6 per cent of meeting its emission targets.

"The main finding is that if we had a unified approach to climate change, we would be within reach of meeting our target and upholding our climate-change commitment to the world," said Ian Bruce, science and policy manager for the foundation.

Mr. Bruce said the study is the first to analyze what would happen if several key provincial climate-change strategies were applied nationally.

Mr. Bruce said B.C.'s carbon tax, Quebec's cap on emissions and Ontario's elimination of coal-fired power plants have all been effective in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions provincially without harming the economy.

"The report addresses some of the myths out there that it's too difficult for a northern country like Canada to take action," he said. "These are not radical new ideas in this report. They are proven solutions that work and they are being implemented right in our own back yard."

Mr. Bruce said, over all, Canada continues to fall behind on its greenhouse-gas emission targets, however, because there is no national climate-change strategy.

"As far as how progress is being made right now in Canada, it has been a piecemeal approach," he said. "I would say the main obstacle to Canada in meeting its target is a lack of leadership at the national level by the federal government."

The Environment Canada report states the federal government "is focused on a pragmatic approach to addressing climate change that will reduce emissions while continuing to create jobs and encourage the growth of the economy."

Mr. Bruce said if Canada wants to start making significant progress in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, the country should adopt the successful provincial policies now.

"We have made-in-Canada solutions that are proven to work," he said. "For example, adopting best-in-Canada policies on renewable energy, staged phase-out of coal power and pricing carbon pollution in Saskatchewan and Alberta would be three times more effective in reducing carbon pollution than current policies."

In an interview from Peru, where she is attending the UN's COP20 climate-change conference, B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said British Columbia and other provinces are leading by example and she hopes Ottawa takes note.

Ms. Polak said B.C.'s carbon tax has been a popular topic at the conference, and she was pleased to be able to tell delegates that B.C. is on target to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 33-per-cent below 2007 levels by 2020.

"It's great to have B.C.'s climate leadership recognized so publicly on the international stage," she said. "Just [Monday], World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said B.C.'s carbon tax is, and I'm quoting here, 'one of the most powerful examples of carbon pricing.'"

In 2008, B.C. became the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce a carbon tax.

Ms. Polak said there is "recognition globally that carbon pricing is necessary to reduce GHG emissions and that B.C.'s broad-based, revenue-neutral carbon tax is a successful model other jurisdictions could follow."

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