Canada may miss modest new climate targets: watchdog

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 04, 2011 1:33 PM
Canada may miss modest new climate targets: watchdog

* Says Canada wasting billions on climate change plan

* Says Canada might not meet 2020 emissions cuts goal

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is spending billions of dollars on poorly planned climate change programs and could miss its modest 2020 target for greenhouse gas emission cuts, Parliament's environmental watchdog said on Tuesday.

Scott Vaughan's critical report is the latest attack on the record of the Conservative government, which critics say cares little for the environment and is far too close to the influential energy industry.

Vaughan said a probe of the government's 2010 climate change plan revealed almost C$9.3 billion ($8.8 billion) had been earmarked for 35 different programs.

"There are some basic management weaknesses that we saw in terms of the plan ... right now it's looking to us to be disjointed, confused, non transparent (with) a lack of good coordination between many of the programs," he said.

After taking power in 2006 the Conservatives walked away from the Kyoto climate change accord - which committed Canada to cut emissions to an average of 6 percent below its 1990 level by 2012 - on the grounds it would harm the economy.

The government now promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Vaughan said that target might also be too ambitious, given the chaotic state of the 2010 climate change plan.

"The overall federal-wide coordination of these climate change programs really needs to get its act together and if they don't then we have some doubts whether or not they're going to be able to meet any target," he told reporters.

In response, Environment Minister Peter Kent said Ottawa "is continuously improving environmental policies and programs" and would reach its 2020 goal.

The official opposition New Democrats said the report showed the Conservatives had planned to break their international obligations.

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"It's extremely alarming to see that they have failed to put in place a proper management system ... there are huge holes in their climate change plan," said Megan Leslie, the party's environment spokeswoman.

Vaughan also complained about "incomplete, poor or non-existent environmental information" on the impact of developing the oil-rich tar sands of northern Alberta.

The federal government said in July it would spend C$50 million a year on monitoring air and water quality in northern Alberta as well as the effects of oil sands development on biodiversity.

Vaughan said the plan would be "a game changer" if it was implemented as planned.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)