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Alberta, Saskatchewan called environmental 'laggards'

The Syncrude oilsands mine facility near Fort McMurray.

Jeff McIntosh/Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Some provinces are closing their coal-fired generating plants and introducing economic incentives to reduce their citizens' reliance on fossil fuels.

Others – specifically Alberta and Saskatchewan – are going backwards in the fight against climate change, says a new report by the David Suzuki Foundation that looks at what individual provinces and territories are doing to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

The report, called All Over The Map, was released Wednesday and coincides with a federal announcement that greenhouse-gas emissions are levelling off nationally despite a growing economy.

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The Suzuki Foundation says sharp declines in emissions will be needed to prevent devastating climate change. And "a lot of the progress that's being made when it comes to global warming is coming from provinces and cities," said Ian Bruce, leader of the climate-change program at the Suzuki Foundation, in a telephone interview.

The "very good" provinces

The foundation's report says three provinces are "leaders" in greenhouse-gas reduction: British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario.

B.C. leads the country in putting a price on carbon pollution. But it has lost momentum over the past four years, the foundation says, because it has stalled on implementing some measures that would ensure it meets its emissions-reductions targets for 2020.

Quebec has a "modest" cap-and-trade program and is ahead of most other provinces in terms of cutting greenhouse gas.

Ontario has introduced a "revolutionary" Green Energy Act that the foundation says has resulted in billions of dollars in investment in clean-energy production and jobs. At the same time, it is shutting down its coal-fired generating plants.

The "worst" provinces

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Alberta and Saskatchewan were named environmental "laggards" by the Suzuki Foundation. Most of Canada's increase in greenhouse-gas emissions since 1990 has come from these two provinces, and their per-capita emissions are five times what they are in the rest of Canada.

Alberta, because of its economic reliance on the oil sands, is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada, and emissions will continue to grow until 2020, the Suzuki report says. Meanwhile, the province continues to rely heavily on coal power for electricity, Mr. Bruce said.

A spokesman for the Alberta government said the province had the first mandated emissions-reduction program for all large industry, and has a policy to cut greenhouse gases while balancing the need for "a healthy economy and a competitive industry."

Saskatchewan, meanwhile, has the highest greenhouse-gas emissions per capita in the country, has no plan to close its coal-fired power plants and has eliminated its Climate Change Secretariat and its Office of Energy Consumption. "It is difficult to imagine any jurisdiction taking the threats of climate change less seriously than Saskatchewan currently does," the Suzuki report says. Saskatchewan officials did not respond to a request for comment.

What is needed? A comprehensive national plan

The Suzuki Foundation accuses the federal government of thwarting action to reduce climate change. Federal programs, where they exist, are weak and ineffective, it says.

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What is required, says the foundation, is a full suite of policies at the national level to tackle all sources of greenhouse gas. That includes efforts to spur innovation and the production of clean energy, action to reduce growing road-transportation emissions, more efficient construction methods and an increased emphasis on renewable power.

"Technologies already exist to dramatically cut emissions," the report says. "The only missing ingredient is political leadership."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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