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With all eyes on Paris during COP21, it’s time to take a closer look at where Canadian provinces stand on carbon credits and climate change. Highlighting the accomplishments and areas for improvement, this report card outlines some of the significant moments in each province’s climate action throughout 2015.
All grades are rabble-assigned and may vary with a focus on other environmental issues.
What B.C. is doing well:
B.C. currently has a carbon tax in place that, while some criticize as being too low, is still a key element in the province’s emission reduction strategy and was the first significant carbon tax in North America. The province also currently provides renewable electricity to 1.5 million homes and its Clean Energy Act requires that 93 per cent of the province’s electricity comes from clean or renewable sources.
Where B.C. could improve:
While there exists a deep-rooted pride in B.C.’s natural beauty, there appears to be a continual disconnect between this recognition and the very real grip that energy infrastructure titans like Kinder Morgan seem to have on the province. Despite ongoing protests from environmental groups and Indigenous communities, pipeline proposal development, fracking and the spread of misinformation on these projects continue. The government’s ambitious goals for emission reduction by 2020 have also become reportedly hard to meet, after the province has plateaued in its efforts since 2012.
Our grade for 2015: B
What Alberta is doing well:
Approximately 90 per cent of electricity in government buildings comes from renewable sources. Recently, Alberta’s new NDP government has imposed an economy-wide carbon tax set to begin in 2017.
Where the Alberta could improve:
Alberta leads the country in greenhouse gas emissions, contributing 35.6 per cent to the country’s total. For years, the province has lacked any concrete plan for emission reduction, and has in fact stated that its absolute emissions figures will likely continue to rise until 2020. This reality is one that Premier Rachel Notley has been working to address since her election in May.
Our grade for 2015: C-
What Saskatchewan is doing well:
Just this year, Saskatchewan’s power company, SaskPower, has committed to doubling the percentage of renewable electrical energy used in the province by 2030, bringing it to an ambitious level of 50 per cent.
Where Saskatchewan could improve:
Currently, Saskatchewan has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the country. This trend emerges from significant funding cuts to renewable energy programs as well as limited plans to reduce dependence on coal-fired power plants. Put simply, Saskatchewan has a lot of catching up to do.
Our grade for 2015: C-
What Manitoba is doing well:
Just announced this week, the Manitoba government plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one third for 2030. It also intends to create 6,000 green jobs in the next five years and introduce a cap and trade program for significant greenhouse gass emitters. It was also the first jurisdiction in North America to place a coal and petroleum coke heating ban.
Where Manitoba could improve:
This announcement is already a significant improvement for Manitoba, which has faced a significant increase in floods and forest fires with climate change. But the province doesn’t have the best track record with these goals, as it was 21.7 per cent above its targeted level in 2012, which was set to meet the Kyoto protocol. Carbon taxes are still focused to limited areas, and are not economy-wide which environmentalists have called for.
Our grade for 2015: B
What Ontario is doing well:
Just last year, Ontario closed its last coal-fired generating plant. This completed the province’s phase-out of coal, which provided 25 per cent of its energy just 12 years ago. The province has also committed to expanding the renewable energy sector through its Green Energy Act and has remained steadfast in its emission targets for 2020, 2030 and 2050.
Where Ontario could improve:
The province does not have a carbon tax and, instead, is implementing a cap-and-trade system — now linked with Quebec and Manitoba — that is still fairly vague. For the most part, “vague” seems to be a fairly common theme in Ontario’s plans for addressing climate change, even though it still aims to have a 15 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020.
Our grade for 2015: B+
What Quebec is doing well:
Quebec also has a cap and trade program in place that is estimated to raise $2.8 billion by 2020 — all of which will go into the province’s Green Fund. Shortly before COP21, the province announced it will adopt an emissions reduction target of 37.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Other targets within the province include diverting organics from landfills and having 25 per cent of all passenger vehicles be electric or hybrid by 2020.
Where Quebec could improve:
A significant portion of the government’s transportation budget is slotted for highway maintenance, rather than public transportation. Furthermore, while Quebec was the first province to introduce a carbon tax, it still remains fairly small and some argue that it has only encouraged people to purchase gas over the border.
Our grade for 2015: A-
What New Brunswick is doing well:
Last year, New Brunswick’s new premier introduced a moratorium on all forms of hydraulic fracturing, stating that it was an unsustainable way to move forward in job creation strategies.
Where New Brunswick could improve:
Currently, the province does not have any strategy in place to tax carbon and while it was on its way to meet its emission reduction targets for 2020, it now seems to be falling behind. In addition, critics argue that the premier’s plans for addressing climate change are incompatible with his current goals to boost the province’s economy through exporting natural resources, expanding oil sands and building pipelines.
Our grade for 2015: C+
What Nova Scotia is doing well:
The Nova Scotia government says that, since 1990, the province has reduced emissions by nine per cent and is on track to meet its target of at least 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. In addition, less than a decade ago, the province relied on fossil fuels to produce 85 per cent of its electricity. Now, 24 per cent of its electricity is from renewable resources.
Where Nova Scotia could improve:
Environmentalists say that, although Nova Scotia is at the frontlines of coastal climate change, the province still lacks a unified strategy in protecting its coast. Furthermore, the province still produces a significant portion of their electricity from coal.
Our grade for 2015: B-
Prince Edward Island
What P.E.I. is doing well:
After meeting their goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels, P.E.I. now boasts an ambitious emission reduction goal of aiming for 75 to 85 per cent below its 2001 levels by 2050.
Where P.E.I. could improve:
Last year, PEI lost approximately 46 centimeters of its coastline, a problem that environmentalists say will continue with climate change. However, the provincial government doesn’t specifically address this issue in their climate change strategy.
Our grade for 2015: B+
Newfoundland and Labrador
What N.L. is doing well:
Following the greenhouse gas emission targets established by the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, Newfoundland and Labrador has also committed to the target of reducing levels to 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75 to 85 per cent below 2001 levels by 2050.
Where N.L. could improve:
While they now have targets in place, Newfoundland and Labrador lagged behind the other provinces in setting ones for reducing GHG emissions. The province also continues to set goals towards developing its energy and carbon sector, including offshore oil fields set to begin producing oil in 2017.
Our grade for 2015: B
Alyse is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice, storytelling and tea. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen’s University and believes in the ability to make positive changes through media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen’s News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer.
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