Inuit, environmentalists unimpressed with Ottawa’s Kyoto plan

Arctic needs alternative energy now, Jose Kusugak says

By JANE GEORGE

Reaction from Inuit, environmentalists and opposition parties to Liberal government’s implementation plan for the Kyoto Protocol, or “Project Green,” was lukewarm.

Details of the plan were released last week in Ottawa.

“Inuit appreciate the efforts of our fellow Canadians to reduce greenhouse gases to counter the effects of climate change,” said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Jose Kusugak. “But Inuit need to see a strong commitment to support our efforts to switch from diesel energy-generation to cleaner forms of energy.”

With over 90 per cent of energy generated in Inuit communities from diesel-burning generators, ITK suggested the Arctic should be used as an environmental laboratory to test or even manufacture cleaner, more efficient sources of power and small engines.

Kusugak said Inuit want to help Canada become a leader in new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Inuit are willing to work in a true partnership with the Government of Canada on climate change,” he said.

Kugugak questioned how Inuit can meet the “One-Tonne Challenge” – which asks individual Canadians to reduce their production of greenhouse gases by one tonne by energy-saving measures like taking public transport.

One tonne of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide would fill the volume of two average sized houses in Canada.

“While Canadians in southern Canada can retrofit their homes to meet their ‘one-tonne challenge,’ Inuit would need to find alternatives to their use of polluting forms of gas, their communities’ diesel dependency, and effective and efficient substitutes to old two-stroke engine technology that are relied upon for survival in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” Kusugak said.

Stéphane Dion, the federal environment minister, promised money from a climate fund and partnership fund to find alternatives to diesel for the North.

According to the plan, Canada intends to meet its target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 270 megatonnes (270 million tonnes) a year by 2012 through:

* A Climate Fund: Ottawa will buy greenhouse gas reductions or credits from farmers, businesses, communities and other countries;
* A Partnership Fund: the federal government will cost-share in provincial, and territorial major infrastructure projects such as an east-west power grid and cleaner power plants;
* Regulation of large emission producers: some 700 facilities in the oil and gas, electric generation, mining and manufacturing sectors will be required to cut emissions by 36 megatonnes a year and contribute to a high-tech research fund;
* Cleaner cars: a voluntary agreement with auto industry to cut emissions by manufacturing more efficient cars and trucks;
* Existing programs to improve energy efficiency, including EnerGuide for Houses and the One-Tonne Challenge.

Environmentalists knocked the plan for giving a break to industry.

“The amount of mandatory reductions by industrial large final emitters… are so limited that it places what is likely to be an impossibly large burden on the rest of the plan,” a coalition of 11 environmental groups said in a statement.

Quebec’s environment minister, Thomas Mulcair, said the federal government’s plan is unfair to Quebec.

Mulcair said Quebec has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent between 1990 and 2002 and has spent billions of dollars developing clean hydro-electric power.

“If it weren’t for the fact that Quebecers are bringing down the Canadian average, Canadians would be producing more greenhouse gases per capita than Americans,” Mulcair said.

Mulcair said the federal government is not giving Quebec, the province “at the front of the class,” enough credit for its efforts to reducing emissions.

“We are the Canadians who produce the lowest amount of greenhouse gases. That effort, those expenses, have to be recognized and compensated by Ottawa,” he said.

Other critics said the plan’s cost will go way over the $10 billion forecast because Ottawa has lagged in coming up with a plan to meet its targets under Kyoto and will now have to buy emissions credits from other countries to catch up.

The plan hopes to achieve its 270 megatonne cuts by saving:

* 55 to 85 megatonnes through the Partnership Fund with provinces and territories to cut emissions;
* 39 megatonnes from facilities like refineries, cement plants and power stations;
* 20 megatonnes through “carbon sinks” in agriculture and forestry;
* 15 megatonnes through renewable sources of power such as wind and solar energy;
* 10 megatonnes through the One-Tonne Challenge;
* 5.3 megatonnes through the introduction of more efficient cars and trucks.

But the chances of this plan being put into action are uncertain at best. The Conservatives, who are ahead in the polls and may force a federal June election, say they will dump the plan if elected.

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