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The challenge of meeting Canada's greenhouse gas reduction targets

By Larry Hughes and Nikhil Chaudhry

Abstract

In 2007, the Government of Canada announced its medium- and long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction plan entitled Turning the Corner, proposed emission cuts of 20% below 2006 levels by 2020 and 60-70% below 2006 levels by 2050. A report from a Canadian government advisory organization, the National Round Table on Environment and Economy (NRTEE), Achieving 2050: A carbon pricing policy for Canada, recommended "fast and deep" energy pathways to emissions reduction through large-scale electrification of Canada's economy by relying on a major expansion of hydroelectricity, adoption of carbon capture and storage for coal and natural gas, and increasing the use of nuclear. This paper examines the likelihood of the pathways being met by considering the report's proposed energy systems, their associated energy sources, and the magnitude of the changes. It shows that the pathways assume some combination of technological advances, access to secure energy supplies, or rapid installation in order to meet both the 2020 and 2050 targets. This analysis suggests that NRTEE's projections are optimistic and unlikely to be achieved. The analysis described in this paper can be applied to other countries to better understand and develop strategies that can help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.Emissions reduction Resource availability Climate change

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