Canada

Out of 61 countries analyzed in 2012 for their policies and action on climate change, Canada fell to 58th place according to Climate Action Network Canada (CANC) Canada is the biggest carbon polluter per capita of major economies in the world because of the tar sands, which are the third largest reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and up to 4.5 times more carbon intensive. link  December 2017: Between 2005 and 2016, non-hydroelectric renewables, wind, solar and biomass, grew from 1.5% of total electricity generation in Canada to 7.2%. Hydro was responsible for almost 60% of Canada’s power in 2016. By 2016, solar capacity was 2,310MW, almost all of it in Ontario. During that same period coal fell from 16% to 9.3% as a source of power. Canada intends to eliminate coal as a source of power by 2030 and only four provinces still get any power from the fossil fuel. Only about 20% of Canada’s electricity comes from fossil fuels now, divided almost equally between coal and natural gas. Nuclear energy accounts for 15% of Canada’s electricity supply. The amount of electricity generated by the wind is 20 times what it was in 2005, and wind as a percentage of total power grew from just 0.2% in 2005 to 4.7% in 2016. link

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Below

  • Political climate – 2017
  • Overview on climate emissions
  • Keystone XL pipeline and the US link
  • Keystone pipeline alternatives
  • Solar / Wind / Geothermal / Hydro / Nuclear
  • News from Ontario
  • Other news from Canada
  • Coal and carbon sequestration
Political climate – 2017

January 2014: Before the election of Justin Trudeau in October 2015, Canada had become an “outcast among its negotiating peers. According to the government’s own projections, Canada’s carbon emissions will soar 38% by 2030 mainly due to expanding tar sands projects. link
September 2016: Trudeau team reneges of climate promises. Of late, the decisions of the Government, and the environment and climate change ministry in particular, evoke a creeping sense of déjà vu and backsliding on the climate file. link  January 2017: Trudeau backs Trump on Keystone renewal. link
  April 2017:Trudeau administration has been pushing the development of Canada’s bountiful oil and gas resources, including the dirty tar sands of Alberta. link

November 2017: Canada to introduce new law in 2018 to make polluters pay. The federal government is ready to force polluters to pay for their carbon emissions and will introduce a new law in 2018 to achieve that goal. Many provinces and territories already have systems in place or are working hard to adopt them ahead of that deadline. Canada’s three most populous provinces, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, have all introduced or implemented systems, either a carbon tax, or a cap and trade system, to address climate change. Saskatchewan is an exception and has promised to oppose federal efforts to tax carbon pollution to protect its oil and gas sector. link  June 2018: Ontario breaks from carbon tax plan. A disappointed Justin Trudeau said that he was planning an intervention after learning that Ontario premier-designate Doug Ford was withdrawing from a national climate change plan. Trudeu said, “This is obviously unfortunate, we would rather he not do that, but since he’s notified (us) that he’s withdrawing from the national climate change plan, we need to continue to ensure that we move forward on both growing the economy and protecting the environment at the same time.” Trudeau’s pan-Canadian climate change framework, a 52-page roadmap, signed in December 2016 with provincial and territorial leaders as part of efforts to achieve Canada’s international commitments under the Paris agreement to achieve a 30% reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. link

March 2017: Keystone approval spells headache for Canada’s Trudeau – link

April 2016: Canadians reject myth of fossil fuel economy – link

October 2015: New Canadian prime minister brings a new attitude to climate change. For years, climate change activists have criticized the Canadian government as a global warming laggard. The Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has been in power since 2006, has never taken climate change seriously. When Canada failed to meet carbon cuts set in the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty Canada signed and ratified under a previous government, Harper simply withdrew his country. The surprise election of Justin Trudeau promises to change that perception. The Liberal Party leader emphasized the very real danger of climate change. link
Overview of climate emissions

In a report to the United Nations, the Harper administration said it expected emissions of 815 million tonnes of CO2 in 2030, up from 590Mt in 1990. Worse, Canada is likely under-reporting its emissions. An investigation in 2013 found that Canada’s reported emissions from its natural gas sector, the world’s third largest, could be missing as much as 212Mt in 2011 alone. Canada is also the only country in the world to have fully pulled out of the Kyoto protocol (April 2012) arguing that it would be too difficult to meet its emission reductions goals. link  (Main source here)

Canada failing to act quickly enough on environment. Environmentalists warn government  subsidies of $3.3 billion undermine Trudeau’s plans for putting a national price on CO2, and not acting fast enough to confront extreme weather events. (Canada is the 5th largest oil producer in the world.) May 2014: IMF calculates Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies at $34 billionThe International Monetary Fund estimates that energy subsidies in Canada top an incredible $34 billion each year in direct support to producers and uncollected tax on externalized costs. The report estimated that eliminating the subsidies would reduce global carbon emissions by 13%. The stunning statistics specific to this country remain almost completely unreported in Canadian media. link

May 2015: Canada promises emission cuts, but clings to tar sands production. Canada’s federal government, in a pledge that skeptical climate campaigners called a triumph of hope over experience, promised to reverse years of emissions growth and get its global warming pollution back on a downward slope. Canada’s pledge was submitted formally to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, but the target falls short of what other leading industrial nations have promised, would do less than Canada has promised in the past, and would be hard to achieve without significantly scaling back industry’s longstanding plans to expand production of tar sands oil. link

Canada’s emissions rising.

April 2015: Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions up 4% from 2009. A report to the UN suggests the country has little hope of meeting its international commitments. The report shows that Canada’s annual GHG emissions rose by 1.5% in 2013, and were up 4% between 2009 and 2013 to a level nearly 20% above Ottawa’s 2020 target. link
Carbon emissions rose 24% between 1990 and 2008 – link
April 2013: Canada not on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – link

Climate Action Network Canada is the only organization in the country, composed of over 75 member organizations, with a mandate to promote the climate movement as a whole, rather than the interests and programs of any one organization. 

September 2011: New report – failure to tackle climate change will cost billions. Canada can expect to pay between $21 billion and $43 billion each year by 2050 if it fails to come up with a domestic plan within a global agreement to tackle climate change, according to a comprehensive study, titled Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada – pdf  link                    

Keystone and the U.S. link

July 2016: After Keystone XL rejection – what next? There are three main projects under consideration right now that would bring millions of gallons of tar sands oil out of Canada every day. Kinder Morgan wants to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline to the west, where oil could be shipped south to California’s refineries. Enbridge is trying to increase capacity in two pipelines in Minnesota which would feed into a system carrying oil down to the Gulf Coast. And TransCanada is proposing a major pipeline to the Maritime Provinces in order to ship tar sands oil down the Eastern Seaboard. link

See page on Keystone project as it affects the USA  link
See page on Alberta’s tarsands here  
link

Keystone pipeline alternatives

There are three proposed pipeline projects slated to move oil sands crude out of northern Alberta to other markets: the $7-billion Keystone XL, which would shuttle 700,000 barrels of oil a day to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico; Enbridge Inc.’s $6.6-billion proposed Northern Gateway, designed to carry 525,000 barrels a day to a port in Kitimat, B.C., so tankers can take oil to Asia; and Kinder Morgan’s planned expansion of its existing Trans Mountain system, which would cost around $4.3-billion to take an added 400,000 barrels a day to Burnaby, B.C. link  [The Northern Gateway is opposed by at least 50 first nations along the pipeline corridor and on the B.C. coast and it is also the next target for the North American environmental movement that so successfully delayed the Keystone pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The earliest it could possibly open is estimated for 2017] link 

January 2017: British Columbia approves Kinder Morgan pipeline expansionBritish Columbia gave the green light to Kinder Morgan’s plan to nearly triple its Trans Mountain oil pipeline. The Canadian government in November approved Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would help ensure oil exports from the oil sands in the neighboring province of Alberta reach Asia.  link  Update – August 30 2018: Canadian court quashes approval of Trans Mountain pipeline. In a blow to Trudeau government, which paid Kinder Morgan C$4.5 billion for the pipeline, the court ruled that regulators had not adequately consulted First Nations. An appeal could drag out a couple of years. link  (November 2016:  Canada approves controversial Kinder Morgan oil pipeline. link)

June 2016:  Enbridge’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline blocked. In its judgment, the federal court overturned approval of the pipeline because Canada’s consultation with aboriginal communities, also known as First Nations, was “brief, hurried and inadequate”. It said the government failed to grapple with their concerns and had not shown any intention to correct any errors or omissions in the original regulatory panel review. link

June 2014: Prime Minister Harper approves Northern Gateway pipeline – link  Update: May 2018: Trudeau’s hard line on completing the Kinder Morgan pipeline – link  While the landmark deal covers the cost of asset purchase, it doesn’t cover the costs of expanding the pipeline – projected to be in the billions – nor does it cover the costs of future court battles over the project. link)

May 2013: British Columbia opposes Enbridge pipeline.  link
August 2013How Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline lost its way – link

Solar / Wind Geothermal / Hydro /Nuclear

Solar Power 
Solar energy capacity in Canada as of 2014, by province. This statistic displays the capacity of photovoltaic power in Canada as of 2014, by province. During this year, solar power capacity reached 6.44MW in Alberta which has the highest capacity. As all the provincial and territorial governments now support net-metering or net-billing and as system costs have decreased, generation of solar energy is gradually approaching grid parity in Canada. link

Wind Energy. Canada finished 2017 with 12,239 MW of wind energy capacity, enough to power 6% of the country’s electricity demand. The year saw completion of 10 projects that added 341MW of new installed capacity; Canada is home to the world’s ninth largest wind generating fleet. There are 295 wind farms operating from coast to coast, including projects in two of the three northern territories. link

September 2011: Geothermal could supply all Canada’s energy needs. A “massive” store of clean, renewable energy is sitting at Canadians’ feet, according to a federal report on geothermal energy. Tapping into hot rocks that are tantalizingly close to the surface in western and northern Canada could generate more electricity than the entire country now consumes and generate few greenhouse gas emissions, says a new report. As few as 100 projects could meet Canada’s energy needs, according to the team’s findings. The heat is closest to the surface in large swaths of British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, but the report says geothermal energy opportunities exist across Canada. link

Fracking – see section on Fracking around the world – link

Hydropower in Canada. According to a study commissioned by the Canadian Hydropower Association, Canada has 163,000 MW of untapped hydropower potential, more than twice the country’s existing hydropower capacity. Already, hydropower accounts for 60% of Canada’s electricity consumption. That number is sure to rise as construction of several new hydropower plants near completion while more coal-fired plants are shuttered in the name of clean air. link

Nuclear power in Canada. As of November 2016, about 16% of Canada’s electricity comes from nuclear power, with 18 reactors in Ontario, and just one in New Brunswick. link

July 2009: A setback for nuclear power. Two years into a $20 billion nuclear upgrade project meant to replace aging reactors with next-generation technology, the Ontario government postponed the entire process citing excessive cost and uncertainties involving the ownership status of the sole Canadian bidder. Ontario receives 50% of its energy from nuclear sources. link

News from Ontario

December 2016: Ontario commences with cap-and-trade to tackle climate change. Cap-and-trade will link up with similar systems already in place in California and Quebec, creating a carbon market covering more than 60 million people and making the cost of cap-and-trade cheaper than it would otherwise be. Companies will have to buy permits – called “allocations” – from the province for every tonne of carbon they burn. The cap will mandate emissions cuts to 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, 37% below by 2030 and 80% by 2050. These reductions are sharper than those Ottawa is targeting under its new climate-change deal with the provinces. link Update – (July 2018) Newly elected Ontario premier, Doug Ford, plans to unwind the province’s cap-and-trade program, and vowed to scrap wind and solar subsidies as part of a broader effort to bring down electricity prices. link

September 2016: Ontario government scraps plan for $3.8 billion in renewable energy projects. Ontario is blowing off plans for more wind and solar power as it feels the heat over high electricity bills less than two years before a provincial election. The move will prevent $2.45 from being added to the average homeowner’s monthly hydro bill in the coming years. link

May 2016: Ontario to spend $7 billion on sweeping climate change plan.The Ontario government will spend more than $7 billion over four years on a sweeping climate change plan that will affect every aspect of life – from what people drive to how they heat their homes and workplaces – in a bid to slash the province’s carbon footprint. link

March 2016: Ontario to convert largest coal plant to solar farm. While the new 44MW solar plant will produce a fraction of the enormous output of the former coal plant, the emissions-free energy will contribute to Ontario’s commitment to building a clean economy.  Ontario completed its coal phase-out in 2014, and the number of smog days in the province declined from 53 in 2005 to zero in 2015. link

December 2013: Coal gone – nuclear pullback. The Ontario government releases its Long-Term Energy Plan which balances a big ramp-up in renewable energy and notable pullback in nuclear. Ontario’s estimated 2013 electricity production mix is 59% nuclear, 28% renewables, 11% natural gas, and 2% coal. The forecasted 2025 electricity production mix: 42% nuclear, 46% renewables and 12% natural gas. Ontario plans to bring 20GW of renewable energy online by 2025, representing nearly half of installed capacity. More than 10GW of wind, solar, and bioenergy will come online by 2021, moved back from 2018. link
As of early 2013, about 2,700MW of wind and solar power are currently feeding electricity into Ontario’s grid system, 75% of it wind. That amount is set to more than triple by January, 2016. link   

Solar in Ontario
July 2014: A surge in solar installations is taking place in Ontario. The biggest project outside Ontario right now is a small 1MW solar farm under construction near Kimberley, B.C. But in Ontario, big solar farms have become positively commonplace. (link)    Solar didn’t exist as a source of power for utility companies in Canada a decade ago. By 2016, solar capacity was 2,310 megawatts, almost all of it in Ontario. link  April 2014: 95GW of potential solar energy in southeastern Ontario. Southeastern Ontario is capable of producing solar energy almost equal to the amount of power generated by all nuclear reactors in the United States, according to studies conducted by the Applied Sustainability Research Group at Queen’s University. The studies are the first to investigate the region’s solar energy potential and yielded unexpected results. link
Other news from Canada

December 2017: Canada’s oil capital making the leap toward renewable energyAlberta’s Climate Leadership Plan seeks to phase out all pollution from coal-fired electricity and get 30% of the province’s power, (about 5,000MW) from renewable sources by 2030. Currently Alberta accounts for 42% of Canada’s coal production and consumes two-thirds of the fuel used in Canada to generate electricity. link

February 2017: Canada’s glacial ice loss raises sea level. Glaciers on Canada’s Queen Elizabeth Islands are melting at an ever faster rate. Between 2005 and 2015, ice loss accelerated massively from 3 billion tonnes a year to 30 billion tons. The islands, which make up Canada’s northernmost archipelago, are home to a quarter of all the Arctic ice, second only to Greenland. And the flow of meltwater there from what once were frozen rivers is now a major contributor to sea level rise. link

September 2016: Trudeau government on defensive over LNG project. Less than 24 hours after the approval of a controversial $36 billion liquefied natural gas project in British Columbia, the Trudeau government has found itself under attack for what critics label a major conflict between its environmental commitments and economic interests. The Pacific Northwest LNG project will be built on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. Upon completion, it would ship 19 million tonnes a year of liquefied gas to markets in Asia while pumping more than five million tonnes of CO2 annually into the atmosphere. That would make it one the largest single greenhouse gas emitters in Canada, and is the reason many environmentalists have described the project as a “carbon bomb” and were up in arms over its approval. link

November 2016: Canada plans to be coal-free by 2030. Coal accounts for around 10% of the country’s electricity in a grid dominated by hydropower. “Our goal is to make Canada’s electricity 90% non-emitting by 2030,” said Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in a statement, which left open the possibility coal-plants could continue by using carbon capture technology. link

August 2016: In Quebec, skeptical farmers present additional hurdle for TransCanada’s contentious Energy East pipelinelink

August 2013: Protests now pose threat to eastern pipelines. Protest movements have to date blocked the construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline south to the Gulf Coast, and Enbridge’s Gateway pipeline west to the Pacific. There is a growing desperation of Alberta’s oil barons and their allies in government. Alberta’s oil companies are sitting on top of rising but landlocked bitumen production, and they are losing billions in profit. link 

April 2015: Canada’s glaciers to shrink 70% by 2100. Scientists have warned the glaciers of Alberta and British Columbia are set to shrink by 75% in area compared to 2005 levels, and by 70% in volume, according to their predictions. But in two out of the three regions that were studied, the decline could be even more dramatic – over 90%. link

Coal and carbon sequestration

October 2014: Canada’s first large-scale coal-fired CCS power plant switched on. The project, the first commercial-scale plant equipped with carbon capture and storage technology, was held up by the coal industry as a real life example that it is possible to go on burning the dirtiest of fossil fuels while avoiding dangerous global warming. The Boundary Dam power plant promises to cut CO2 emissions by 90% by trapping the greenhouse gas underground before it reaches the atmosphere. The company said the project would reduce emissions by about 1 million tons a year, or the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road. CCS is viewed with deep suspicion by environmental campaigners because its economic viability, so far, depends on using the CO2 to increase oil production, and because it is more expensive than renewable sources of energy. link   (CCS globally would cost $17.6 trillion – link)

(More on CCS – carbon capture sequestration.)