Canada greenhouse gas emissions fell nearly 9% in 2020 pandemic year

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April 14 (Reuters) - Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions fell nearly 9% in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, as Canadians along with the rest of the world were forced to change their lifestyles and restrict movement to curb the spread of COVID-19.

A report Canada submitted to the United Nations on Thursday showed that greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 66 megatonnes annually in 2020, Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement, describing the drop as being equivalent to taking 20 million cars off the road.

That included a 27-megatonne drop in transportation emissions, mainly due to people not driving and flying during pandemic-related lockdowns.

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"This is the first report that tracks the impacts of the pandemic on emissions in Canada," Guilbeault said. "So we must be mindful that overall emissions are likely to rebound to a degree as Canada's economy roars back to life."

But, there were also "real signs of progress" in Canada's National Inventory Report on GHG Emissions, Guilbeault added.

Fighting climate change has been one Canada's top priorities under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government has pledged to cut emissions 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030.

In March, the government laid out details of a comprehensive emissions reduction plan and announced over C$9 billion ($7.1 billion) in new spending to meet its climate targets. read more

Climate think-tank Clean Energy Canada, welcoming news of the reduction in emissions, said the 2020 report shows the impact of COVID as well as climate policy.

"Moving forward, the rapid implementation of the federal government's emissions reduction plan will be paramount if we're to make significant annual emissions declines a regular occurrence—no global pandemic required," Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith said in a statement.

Guilbeault said the report demonstrates how measures like accelerating the switch to electric vehicles will help Canada achieve its net-zero targets.

The report showed a reduction in electricity generation, largely due to the phasing out of coal-fired electricity - an objective of the government's emissions reduction plan.

Canada was also on track to meet its goal to reduce methane from the oil and gas sector by 40% to 45% below the 2012 level by 2025, according to Guilbeault.

($1 = 1.2615 Canadian dollars)

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Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by David Gregorio

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