The federal government is not measuring which policies are working in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a report released Thursday morning by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
The commissioner’s spring reports also blamed Ottawa for falling behind on its promise to plant two billion trees by 2031 and failing to adequately protect endangered species.
Commissioner Jerry V. DeMarco said in his audit that Environment and Climate Change Canada’s inability to assess policies could lead to problems in Canada’s efforts to address climate change.
“Without complete impact information, the federal government does not know if it is using the right tools to reduce emissions enough to meet its goal,” DeMarco said in a press release.
The Trudeau government has set a goal to reduce GHG emissions by 40-45% from 2005 levels and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The latest government emissions data shows that the Canada emitted 670 million megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2021, which was up slightly from 2020 but below pre-pandemic levels.
The commissioner’s review found that Environment and Climate Change Canada relies on a modeling approach to determine whether its overall efforts to reduce emissions are working and, therefore, could not say whether individual regulations were effective.
The report says it is particularly troubling that the government does not know how much efforts to reduce methane emissions are contributing to emissions reductions.
“This is worrying because methane has 25 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period,” the report said.
“We found that significant sources of methane emissions were not accounted for in the inventories and are not covered by any existing regulations.”
The report goes on to say that when the commissioner’s office did its own analysis of certain policies, it found mixed results. He said measures to reduce emissions in power generation have met their targets, but some measures to reduce vehicle emissions have fallen short, in part because rising emissions large vehicles such as school buses and dump trucks has offset emissions reductions from small vehicles.
Government puzzled over tree planting target
DeMarco said in a separate report Thursday that the government is unlikely to meet its goal of planting two billion trees by 2030 unless it makes big changes to the program.
The audit found that although the program nearly met its tree planting target in 2021, it did not come close in 2022. Government departments also could not provide the commissioner with clear information on the relationship between forests and GHG emissions.
“I have to stress how important it is that we don’t give up and instead change course to successfully implement solutions like the 2 Billion Tree Program and also work to get the full picture. of how our forests affect greenhouse gas emissions,” DeMarco said in a press release.
The program is the result of a Liberal promise during the 2019 federal election campaign.
DeMarco also criticized the government for its lack of action on endangered species. His audit found that of 520 species labeled at risk since 1982, 80% had either not changed status or moved into a higher risk category.
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