For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe
Globe reporter Shawn McCarthy has the answer:
In the debate last week, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said his government was “the first in history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also growing our economy.” He credited the government’s “sector by sector” regulatory approach.
It is true that as of 2013 – the last year for which figures are available – Canada’s total of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions was 3 per cent lower than it was in 2005, the year before the Conservatives took office. Emissions dropped from 749 megatonnes (MT) in 2005, to 726 MT in 2013. It is also true the economy grew by 13 per cent between 2005 and 2013.
But the drop in emissions came over two years – 2008 and 2009 – when the economy suffered the worst recession since the great depression, according to Environment Canada’s April 2015 submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Emissions bottomed out in 2009 at 699 megatonnes, and rose every year between 2009 and 2013, up 4 per cent in that time. Environment Canada forecast they would continue to climb without aggressive new measures. Mr. Harper’s claim to have reduced GHGs may be already out-of-date, given the likelihood of increased emissions in 2014 and this year.
His suggestion that his government’s regulatory approach has resulted in lower emissions is highly suspect. In concert with the Americans, Ottawa tightened automobile mileage standards, but the big payoff from that effort will only felt in future years, as the standards are increased over time. As well, the Conservative government passed ground-breaking regulations to force power sector to phase out traditional, coal-fire plants. But again, the coal regs won’t bite until the end of this decade, with the major impacts not seen until well after 2020. Mr. Harper has refused to regulate GHG emissions from the oil sands, the fastest growing source of GHGs in Canada. The biggest decline between 2005 and 2013 came from the electricity generators. There are no federal climate regs that impact current emissions in the sector, but demand fell due to recession and Ontario phased out of coal-fired power.