OTTAWA The Conservative government is overestimating the amount of greenhouse-gas reductions that will be achieved through its climate-change policies, a federally funded panel of business and environmental experts reports.
But the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy also warns against ramping up efforts to meet Canada's 2012 Kyoto targets as called for by the three opposition parties because the costs would be "considerable" and hinder longer-term goals.
Released by the federal government late yesterday, the 38-page report includes a chart listing the main climate-change programs introduced by the Conservatives.
From ecoEnergy for renewable power, to the ecoAuto rebate program and the central regulations for heavy industry, the roundtable repeatedly concludes that the government's expected reductions from its list of climate-change programs are a "likely overestimate."
Environmentalist Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada, said the report should force the government to change its message on climate change.
"It is a scathing review of all the measures that the government has put forward under its plan," she said. "After two years, they can no longer blame the Liberals for inaction, because here's their own plan, and it's not going to work."
Although critics quickly seized on the critiques of the government estimates, the report is in line with one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's main arguments.
Mr. Harper has repeatedly said it is better to focus on longer-term plans for climate change than cause short-term havoc to meet the Kyoto targets, a view the report supports.
"Focusing exclusively on the short-term Kyoto Protocol period alone as we have had to do for this response reinforces the [roundtable]'s view that a longer-term national climate-change policy framework is a more effective and necessary approach for the country," the conclusion states.
The roundtable is made up of a wide range of influential Canadians. It includes oil and gas executives, academics, environmentalists and corporate leaders.
The roundtable was obligated to produce the report as a result of the passing of C-288, a Liberal private member's bill that required the government to table a plan for Canada to comply with Kyoto. The roundtable is then required under the law to assess that plan, which the government released over the summer.
The government's plan essentially restated all its efforts on climate change, which promise to stop the rise of greenhouse gases during the Kyoto period and reduce them 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020. Canada's Kyoto target is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels during the years 2008 to 2012.
The report's focus is limited under the law to Conservative measures in place for the 2008-2012 period. It supports the government's stand that while the Kyoto targets will not be met, emissions will start to go down in 2010.
Gary Keller, a spokesman for Environment Minister John Baird, said that is the more important finding. He said the report does not give a full picture of the Conservative plan because it is limited to the Kyoto dates.
"It's clear that the short-term focus of [the Liberal bill] is poor public policy and that a long-term approach to climate change is needed," he said. "We've always said we need to turn the corner past 2012, when the majority of our reductions will take place.