WINNIPEG/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, under fire for its environmental record, pledged on Friday to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 but gave very few details of what Ottawa acknowledged was an ambitious plan.
Critics dismissed the pledge, noting Canada has no chance of meeting its existing 2020 target for cutting the output of gases widely blamed for global warming.
Canada’s right-of-center ruling Conservatives say they will tackle climate change while avoiding measures that might kill jobs. The party has deep political roots in the west, where emissions are soaring as the oil-rich tar sands are developed.
As part of Friday’s announcement, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the government would develop new rules for natural gas-fired electricity generation and to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
“We will continue to reduce Canada’s emissions while protecting the economy,” she told a news conference in Winnipeg.
Although Canada is currently committed to cutting output of greenhouse gases by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, data show it has no chance of meeting that target.
“Until today’s announcement is backed by a commitment to enacting policies that can actually achieve this new target, it isn’t worth the paper it is written on,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada.
Green activists say Prime Minister Stephen Harper must do more to tackle climate change, in part by cutting emissions from the oil and gas sector. Harper says he will only do so in coordination with the United States and has ruled out the idea of a carbon tax.
Aglukkaq, who did not answer directly when asked about the likely failure to meet the 2020 targets, announced the new goal in the run-up to a United Nations summit in Paris in December to agree on reductions beyond 2020.
The United States says it plans emissions cuts of up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
“The targets that we have set for Canada are very much in line with the industrialized countries,” said Aglukkaq.
The New Democrats, the largest opposition party, said the government had no intention of meeting the 2030 target.
“If we’re going to see a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, we need a hard cap on emissions in the oil and gas sector,” said Megan Leslie, the party’s environment spokeswoman.
Aglukkaq also said Ottawa would introduce regulations for the production of chemicals and nitrogen fertilizers.
Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Paul Simao, Matthew Lewis, Grant McCool