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Yesterday, I mentioned two sobering reports from last week on our climate prospects. The the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history. 

After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), a 5% jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt. In addition, the IEA estimates that 80% of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in, as they will come from power plants that are currently in place or under construction today. Unsurprisingly, most of the growth is in developing countries, such as China and India.

“This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2ºC,” said Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the IEA who oversees the annual World Energy Outlook, the Agency’s flagship publication.

Global leaders agreed a target of limiting temperature increase to 2°C at the UN climate change talks in Cancun in 2010. For this goal to be achieved, the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must be limited to around 450 parts per million of CO2-equivalent, only a 5% increase compared to an estimated 430 parts per million in 2000.

The IEA’s 2010 World Energy Outlook set out the 450 Scenario, an energy pathway consistent with achieving this goal, based on the emissions targets countries have agreed to reach by 2020. For this pathway to be achieved, global energy-related emissions in 2020 must not be greater than 32 Gt.This means that over the next ten years, emissions must rise less in total than they did between 2009 and 2010. This is impossible, without a massive world wide change in approach.

Canada, meanwhile, continues to lag. Even in Ontario, with the Green Energy Act and the greenest premier we have ever had, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario reported last week that our emissions are far from under control, and will not meet provincial reduction targets for 2014. He recommends that the Ontario government:

1.  establish sectoral GHG reduction targets that will allow the government, the public and the ECO to determine the efficacy of current and future Climate Change Action Plan initiatives.

2.   establish a price on carbon as soon as possible.

3. investigate and publicly report on the potential for soil carbon sequestration as a GHG mitigation strategy.

4.  review its assumptions regarding landfill design and operational requirements and their contribution to the release of fugitive methane emissions and publicly report on the results of this review.


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