Climate change mitigation: mission impossible
Prime Minister Trudeau went to the United Nations, April 22, 2016, to sign the Paris Accord on behalf of Canada. This isn't the first time a Canadian PM has signed a climate treaty. Jean Chrétien signed the Kyoto Accord in 1997. There were two commitment periods with targets: 2008 and 2012. Unfortunately, Mr Chrétien did nothing to reach the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) goals for either. Admittedly, both he and the Liberal Government were out of power before these dates were reached, but for nine years, they failed to make any headway on curtailing greenhouse gases (GHG).
I believe that Mr Chrétien, a clever man, understood the impossibility of the task, but appreciated the optics of signing on. Has anything changed in nineteen years? No. Mr Trudeau is putting on a brave face, but surely cannot see a path that would make Canada's targets achievable. (How can Canadians, who live in such an expansive country and with a cold climate eight months of the year, manage long-distance travel and home-heating without fossil fuels?)
According to Postmedia News, "According to the federal government's most likely scenario of Canada's fossil fuel energy use, we would have to cut our emissions by 146 megatonnes (Mt) annually by 2020 and by 291 Mt annually by 2030 to fulfill our UN commitment. A 146 Mt cut by 2020 would mean shutting down the equivalent of Canada's agriculture sector (75 Mt) and most of our emission-intensive and trade-exposed industries (76 Mt), in less than five years. A 291 Mt cut by 2030 would mean shutting down the equivalent of the oil and gas sector (179 Mt), the agricultural sector (75 Mt) and half the electricity sector (42.5 Mt) in less than 15 years."
Copenhagen Consensus Centre president Bjorn Lomborg has said, "To say that Paris will get us to 'well below 2 C' is cynical posturing. It relies on wishful thinking. It's like going on a diet, but declaring victory after the first salad."
Unless there is 1) a major change in energy technology whereby fossil fuels are fully supplanted by renewable resources, and 2) all 175 signatories to the Paris Accord get on board with green-energy sources, I cannot see a way forward. (And it's a non-binding agreement.) Prime Minister Trudeau may be sincere in his wish for Canada’s goals for 2020 and 2030, but he must remain cognizant of the implications to our economy. To achieve one at the expense of the other would be a Pyrrhic victory.