Goldstein: U.S. exceeds 2020 climate target that Canada missed

By Lorrie Goldstein

Without a national carbon tax, the United States has achieved what Canada couldn’t with one — reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.

The U.S. easily exceeded that target — which then-U.S. president Barack Obama and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper jointly agreed to under the 2009 United Nations Copenhagen Accord — by achieving a 21% reduction in 2020, according to the Rhodium Group, a U.S. think tank tracking real-time energy emissions in the United States.

This is the second major study indicating the U.S. has exceeded its 2020 target.

According to Climate Analytics — an international, non-profit climate science and policy institute based in Germany — U.S. “emissions projections for 2020 are 20%-21% below 2005 levels.”

In Canada, by contrast, the latest data from the Trudeau government, from 2018, shows at that time our emissions were 0.14% below 2005 levels, compared to our 2020 target of 17% below 2005.

The bad news is that while the U.S., unlike Canada, has achieved its 2020 target, it was only made possible by the global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the Rhodium Groups notes: “Based on preliminary economic and energy data, we estimate that this historic shock to economic activity led to a 10.3% drop in U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020. That is the single largest drop in annual emissions in the post-World War II era, outpacing the Great Recession of 2009 when emissions dipped 6.3%.”

Contrary to the claim by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that economic prosperity and greenhouse gas reductions go hand in hand, in the real world the only thing that has ever dramatically lowered emissions globally in the industrialized era, has been massive recessions causing massive human suffering.

As the Rhodium Group notes: “2020 should not in any way be considered a down payment toward the US meeting its 2025 Paris Agreement target of 26-28% below 2005 levels. The emission reductions of 2020 have come with an enormous toll of significant economic damage and human suffering. With coronavirus vaccines now in distribution, we expect economic activity to pick up again in 2021, but without meaningful structural changes in the carbon intensity of the U.S. economy, emissions will likely rise again as well.”

When Canada’s 2020 emissions are eventually reported — in 2022 if the government continues its current practice of being two years behind real-time data — they will be significantly lower than in 2018.

But it’s very doubtful Canada, unlike the U.S., will meet or exceed our 2020 emissions target, because the U.S. has been far more successful at lowering emissions — not just compared to Canada, but globally — for years.

The reason is that U.S. reductions were not achieved by a national carbon tax/price that Trudeau has imposed on Canadians, but by market forces, technological innovation and energy policy.

The U.S. freed up vast reserves of natural gas using hydraulic fracturing. That made it cheaper to replace coal-fired power plants with natural gas.

Natural gas burns at half the carbon dioxide intensity of coal, contributing to a significant decrease in U.S. emissions.

In Canada, by contrast, several provinces have banned fracking.

The Trudeau government has been far better at talking about reducing emissions than reducing them.

Since coming to power in 2015, our emissions have increased by 1.25%, based on the latest available data from 2018.

This article appeared on the London (Ontario) Free Press website at https://lfpress.com/opinion/columnists/goldstein-u-s-exceeds-2020-climate-target-that-canada-missed


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