Canada's emissions-cutting efforts falling short -environment watchdog

·2 min read

By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada's official environment watchdog on Thursday rapped the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for incoherent and poorly designed efforts to slow climate change.

Canada has never met a target to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. Trudeau's government, in power since 2015, says it will slash emissions by at least 40% by 2030 from 2005 levels, and to make Canada carbon-neutral by 2050.

"Over the past 30 years, Canada has gone from being a climate leader to falling behind other developed countries despite recent efforts," said Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Jerry DeMarco.

Severe floods in British Columbia this month, which some experts have linked to climate change, killed at least four people and washed away railways and roads.

The government's purchase of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline in 2018, in an attempt to complete an expansion that faced stiff opposition, "is an example of policy incoherence with progress toward climate commitments," DeMarco wrote in a report.

The proposed expansion of the pipeline, nearly tripling its capacity, is still under construction. Trudeau says Canada will still need fossil fuel for decades to come, adding that the purchase would help the energy-producing province of Alberta.

DeMarco also criticized a program of the Natural Resources department's Emissions Reduction Fund, which aimed to financially support oil and gas companies struggling with low prices last year, while accelerating efforts to curb emissions.

The program was not designed to ensure sustainable emissions reductions, or value for the money, he wrote.

In a joint statement, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson defended the government's efforts.

"We are confident that we've put in place the fundamentals ... to take Canada's climate fight to the next level," they said.

Trudeau's government introduced a price on carbon and says it plans to cap emissions from the oil and gas sector.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; editing by Jonathan Oatis)