Canada to Rely on Technology as G-7 Vows Deep Emissions Cuts

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Canada will use innovation to meet its greenhouse-gas targets and avoid major industrial disruption, the Prime Minister said.

Stephen Harper explained his country’s technology-based strategy to reduce emissions by about a third by 2030 after the Group of Seven nations committed on Monday to a “decarbonisation” of the world’s economy by the end of the century.

The prospect of deep global cuts was applauded Monday by environmental groups. For Canada, it raises questions about the future of key emitters including the oil and gas sector, which is a source of much of the country’s projected emissions growth.

“I don’t think we should fool ourselves,” Harper told reporters at a press conference. “Nobody’s going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights. We’ve simply got to find a way to create lower-carbon-emitting sources of energy.”

The G-7 communique, published at the conclusion of a two-day summit in southern Germany, said “deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonisation of the global economy” by 2100. That includes emissions cuts of 40 to 70 percent from 2010 levels by 2050 -- a pledge made ahead of a major United Nations climate conference in Paris in December.

‘Strong Statement’

Harper, whose government is regularly criticized by environmentalists on its climate record, said “the challenge will be for the rest of the world to join us in moving forward” on the G-7’s “strong statement.” Canada has pledged a 30 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030 without saying how it will achieve that goal.

The country will rely on innovation to reach its domestic and global commitments, Harper said. “We do understand, and I think all leaders understand, to achieve these kinds of milestones over the decades to come will require serious technological transformation.”

The Prime Minister, whose office put out a statement after the summit that made no mention of climate, said Canada’s electricity sector is already among the greenest in the world and “we hope to go farther on that.” The Conservative government has banned the construction of new coal power plants.

In order to meet its 2030 pledge, Canada will need to reduce its emissions to an estimated 515 metric megatons, from 726 megatons in 2013 even as the government predicts emissions will grow over the next five years.

Missed Targets

Canada is on pace to miss its previous Copenhagen climate target, according to the government’s own projections, with the bulk of emissions growth to come from oil-sands expansion. The oil and gas sector will account for 28 percent of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, as compared to 25 percent in 2012, the figures show.

The Conservative government’s environmental record has spurred opposition to several oil-sands pipelines, including TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL, Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan Inc’s Trans Mountain.

“We are glad that G-7 leaders have committed to transitioning the world off of fossil fuels,” Greenpeace Canada said in an e-mailed statement Monday, urging Harper to quickly pursue forms of renewable energy.

Other Issues

The G-7 communique also applauded the conclusion of negotiations on the Canada-European Union trade pact, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. G-7 countries “look forward to its timely entry into force,” the group said.

Another Canadian priority at the summit was Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Harper said the G-7 is more productive now that Russia is not invited.

President Vladimir Putin “makes it his business to just deliberately be troublesome, to throw a spanner in the works wherever he can,” Harper said, pointing to Russian aggression in Ukraine. The G-7 remains committed to economic sanctions on Russia and to “escalating those sanctions if necessary,” the Prime Minister added.

While Greek’s debt situation was a pressing issue for several G-7 countries, Harper declined to say what he told his fellow leaders on the matter.

The Prime Minister attended the G-7 after a stop in Ukraine Saturday. He will visit Poland, Italy and the Vatican before returning to Canada on Thursday.

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