May 12, 2009 / 10:33 PM / in 9 years

Canada scolded over greenhouse gas estimates

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada has overstated how effective its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions will be, the country’s top environmental watchdog said on Tuesday.

The government has also not set up systems for accurately monitoring reductions in greenhouse gases or where the emissions are coming from, according to Commissioner of the Environment Scott Vaughan.

Ottawa is required to make annual reports on emission reductions, but Vaughan said the government’s reports for the past two years lack key information needed to see if Canada is making any progress in cutting emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide, which are blamed for global warming.

“The expected emission reductions claimed in the plans are overstated, and the uncertainties related to these reductions are not disclosed,” the report said.

Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, but soon after winning power in 2006 Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper walked away from it, saying that since the country’s emissions had risen since the treaty was signed the cuts now required would hurt the economy.

Canada’s emissions of greenhouse gases were 25.3 percent above the 1990 level in 2005, far above its Kyoto target of a 6 percent cut below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

The government then produced a less stringent plan that said Canada would reduce emissions by 50 percent from 2007 levels by 2050 and gave industries options on how they were going to make the reductions.

Environment Canada responded to Vaughan’s report before its public release, saying it that while it agreed with several of the recommendations it may not be technically feasible nor cost effective to monitor actual greenhouse gas emissions they way the report suggests.

Vaughan said in the report he did not understand how the federal department could estimate expected emissions reductions in advance, but then not be able to measure the actual reductions after the fact.

The report was the result of a law pushed through Parliament by opposition parties angered by the Conservative’s refusal to honor the Kyoto deal.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the government would look at any suggestions for improving the way it calculates emission reductions, but dismissed the law that required Vaughan’s report as “partisan mischief” by the opposition.

In a separate report on Tuesday, Vaughan also criticized the government’s fish management policies, saying Ottawa had failed to adequately administer or enforce the country’s Fisheries Act.

In the 23 years since Ottawa adopted new rules to protect fish habitat, fisheries officials have still not fully implemented the policy and there was little information on whether it was meeting its long-term goals, the report said.

Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson

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