No consensus on Manitoba’s Kyoto goals

December 15, 2009

As Premier Greg Selinger flies to Copenhagen today to attend the international climate-change conference, Manitoba is on track to meet ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets it set last year, the government contends.

But the Conservative Opposition begs to differ, and one local environmental leader says there isn’t enough solid information available to gauge how well the province is doing.

Under former premier Gary Doer, Manitoba was quick to support the goals of the Kyoto Protocol, which grew out of an international climate-change conference in Japan in 1997.

Last year, the province proclaimed the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, which bound Manitoba to meet Canada’s Kyoto commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. The province has also committed that by next year, levels should not exceed 2000 levels.

However, according to the latest numbers, released in June, Manitoba experienced a 1.9 per cent jump in greenhouse-gas emissions in 2007. Emissions were also up slightly in the province in 2006.

“Greenhouse gas emissions have increased, they’re on an increasing trend. So clearly we’re going in the wrong direction,” Tory environment critic Heather Stefanson said this week. “And they (the NDP) are nowhere near meeting their Kyoto targets by 2012,” she said.

Based on 2007 levels, Manitoba would need to cut emissions by 26 per cent to achieve its 2012 commitment.

The government, though, is confident that the steps it has taken to reduce emissions over the past few years will soon bear fruit. The initiatives include the mandated use of ethanol and biodiesel in fuels, energy-efficiency programs, rules stipulating that landfills must capture methane gas and the promotion of geothermal installations.

Dan McInnis, the province’s assistant deputy minister of climate change and green strategy initiatives, said the increase in greenhouse-gas emissions in 2007—the latest year in which information is available—was fairly small and the trend line for Manitoba since 2000 has been “pretty flat.”

“We are implementing these measures and we expect that line to go down,” McInnis said this week from Copenhagen, where he will be joined by Selinger and Conservation Minister Bill Blaikie. As for meeting Kyoto targets, he said: “We’re pretty confident that we’ll get there.”

Frustrating for government officials, critics and environmentalists is the length of time it takes for reliable national information to come out. Manitobans won’t know how well we did this year, for example, until mid-2011.

And we won’t know if the government reached its interim 2010 target until after the next provincial election, scheduled for 2011, the provincial Conservatives point out.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2009 A4

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