How countries are reducing greenhouse gases

New housing in Nunavut among several technologies designed to combat climate change


MONTREAL — Getting taxis to stop idling while waiting for passengers, building more energy-efficient houses and cars, and reducing pollution from airplanes: these are just a few of the many practical ways people, communities and countries are promoting to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

New ideas, measures and polices that work were presented through displays and talks during the United Nations Climate Change Conference, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9.

From St. John’s, Newfoundland, comes a grassroots campaign to work with taxi drivers. The Smart Taxis Encouraging Environmental Respect or STEER in St. John’s has involved 200 cabs.

Taxi drivers are paid to attend STEER workshops, which show, among other things, how taxi drivers can reduce their output of greenhouse gas emissions by turning off motors when they’re stationary.

The Government of Nunavut also promoted its new five-plexes at the conference. These social housing units have been designed with extra tight seals, special gas-filled windows for higher insulation and heat recovery vents to reduce heat loss. A shared mechanical room for the five units makes them each more energy-efficient.

“We’re using the latest technology Canada has to offer,” said Derek Elias, of the Kitikmeot Housing Corporation in Cambridge Bay. Elias was on hand at the Nunavut booth within the World of Solutions display to talk about the new five-plexes.

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Elias said the units are also designed to be more culturally appropriate — with a country food preparation space and large open living-kitchen area.

This year 12 units are going up in Cambridge Bay, Hall Beach and Repulse Bay and three five-plexes are slated for Kugaaruk next year.

The greater energy efficiency will offset the higher costs of construction and design over time, Elias said.

On the national level, Sweden — a northern nation similar to Canada — touted its achievements in bringing its greenhouse gas emissions down below 1990 levels, while keeping its economy growing by 25 per cent. Sweden’s emissions would be 20 per cent higher in 2005 if its various national measures and policies hadn’t been introduced.

These include fuel tax reductions for bio-fuels like ethanol, a fuel made from waste, which doesn’t spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Almost all gas now sold in Sweden includes five per cent ethanol and, through tax breaks, grants and free parking for so-called ethanol-fueled “green” cars, their numbers have grown to account for 10 per cent of new cars sold in October. Fuel taxes have also made it more expensive to buy conventional, less fuel-efficient cars.

Sweden has applied the same kinds of incentives to solid waste management. Companies are responsible for making better paper products and tires, while, at the same time, there’s a ban on all combustible waste and organic material in landfills. This means households have to reduce and recycle, too.

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As a result, the total amount of solid waste deposited in Sweden has fallen by 70 per cent since 1993. This has cut carbon emissions from landfills by an estimated 1.9 million tonnes per year.

Other Swedish incentives include: tax breaks on energy-efficient products such as windows; and “green certificates” for companies that meet certain standards; and incentives for homeowners who install heat pumps instead of oil boilers.

The trick to Sweden’s success to meeting its Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions is, said a representative from its environment department,” finding “the right economic incentive.”

Even the European Union, representing more than 20 member countries, is supporting large new and tougher measures to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions. The EU announced it will tackle the climate change impacts of aviation, by setting up a trading scheme where emission reductions by airline companies will be rewarded.

The EU’s carbon dioxide emissions from aviation have increased 68 per cent from 1990 levels. The EU plans to present a proposal by the end of next year to reduce these emissions — a move that will affect all planes flying in or from the EU members.

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