Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A placard with the Canadian flag rests on the ground covered in oil during a demonstration against the Keystone pipeline, outside the Canadian consulate in Chicago, May 17, 2012.

Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press

A group of climate scientists is calling for Ottawa to take dramatic steps to curb emissions, including halting the advance of the oil sands while it weighs new greenhouse gas regulations for the energy sector.

Canada's climate performance has come under renewed scrutiny as other major powers consider new regulatory measures. Last week, state media reported that China intends to introduce a modest carbon tax, while the White House and U.S. State Department have signalled a renewed focus on greenhouse gas legislation. At the same time, observers believe new Canadian regulations and progress on climate change would give the Obama administration political cover to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Such moves are unlikely to be politically appealing to a Canadian government long opposed to carbon taxes. Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., told Reuters Friday that there is little more Canada can do on the climate file to appease American concerns.

Story continues below advertisement

But scientists, who plan to issue a plea for action on Monday alongside prominent environmental advocates Bill McKibben and Tzeporah Berman, call the country's current greenhouse gas policy insufficient. Major change, they say, is needed if Canada is to meet its goal of reducing emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

"The Canadian government has no credible plan for stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions, much less reducing them," Danny Harvey, a University of Toronto climate scientist, said in a statement. He called for "across-the-board deep reductions" in emissions, and said "continued expansion of the oil sands operations runs counter to this imperative."

Mark Jaccard, an economist at Simon Fraser University who has studied climate issues, said Ottawa needs policies that a "credible independent analyst would say would achieve your 2020 promise. Why are you making that promise otherwise?"

Last August, Ottawa said the country was half-way toward meetings its emission reductions targets, and the government maintains that new oil and gas regulations, delayed but due some time this year, will help the country meet its 2020 goal.

"The government has made that commitment and intends to meet it," said Rob Taylor, spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Kent. He added: "We are striking a balance between the ability to deliver real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions without causing a major disruption to the Canadian economy."

Ottawa has brought in regulations to phase out traditional coal plants after 2020, boosted fuel efficiency requirements for cars and trucks and supported biofuels and carbon capture and storage.

But the scientists countered with an analysis that suggests per-barrel emissions in the oil sands are rising, while government documents project Canada will be 18.6 per cent over its emissions target in 2020. Canada, they said, is the 58th worst out of 61 countries on climate performance. Alberta's much-touted carbon tax on large emitters has exacted such little cost that it has been ineffective in reducing emissions, they said.

Story continues below advertisement

Even the dip in national emissions was likely temporary, a product of poor economic circumstances that is unlikely to persist, Mr. Jaccard said.

There remains little consensus on what steps Canada should take. John Abraham, a professor of engineering at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., recommends a "cap and dividend" program, essentially a carbon tax whose revenues are returned to the population in regular rebate cheques. Mr. Jaccard, however, says California's experience has shown cap-and-trade programs, which are somewhat similar, have a limited effect.

"Cap and trade in California will maybe contribute five per cent of meeting their promises" on emissions reduction, he said. "The other 95 per cent is with regulation."

He suggested Canada pursue clean electricity rules, California-style vehicle emission regulations, a low-carbon fuel standard and strict caps on industrial emissions.

The more pressing problem for Canada, in particular with the Keystone XL pipeline, is that it has an image problem – one that more action could help to repair, said Steven Phillips, director of carbon strategy group at Washington-based PFC Energy, a political risk firm.

"It's definitely a P.R. campaign at this point," Mr. Phillips said in a telephone interview. "It's not going to be easy to digest among the environmentalists here in the U.S. but it would be something to justify the decision to the more moderate part of his constituency.

Story continues below advertisement

"But it has to be done soon if they wish to alleviate any of the climate concerns that the Obama administration will weigh as it decides on Keystone XL."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies