by Mike De Souza,
Canwest News Service
Gas-guzzling vehicles are one of the key factors behind the notorious environmental record of Canadians who are among the highest per capita polluters in the world, according to figures released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.
Each Canadian produces an average of 23 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per year, trailing Americans, who create an average of 24.4 tonnes of emissions per year, and Australians, with an average of 27.7 tonnes of emissions per year, according to the federal statistical agency.
An average car produces about five tonnes of CO2 emissions in a year, according to the report, Human Activity and the Environment, released to coincide with Earth Day. It found that the production and the individual consumption of energy were the main sources of Canada’s high per capita emissions.
Although some developing countries, such as India and China are among the biggest polluters overall, the per capita emissions of those countries are up to 20 times less than those in Canada. The report also noted that such developed countries as the United Kingdom, France and Germany have per capita emissions that are about half of those produced by Canadians, who are increasing their pollution faster than any other industrialized country.
“The largest source of this growth was the production of fossil fuels, including coal, crude oil and natural gas, for export,” reads the Statistics Canada report. “In both 1990 and 2003, the production of these fuels for export resulted in more GHG emissions than the production of any other exported commodity Over the period, as worldwide demand for fuels surged, GHG emissions from the production of exported fuels jumped 146 per cent, and the contribution of this sector increased from 16.5 per cent to 26.6 per cent of all exports.”
But the report said that the key source of Canadian pollution came from motorists in gas-guzzling vehicles who caused overall emissions to grow by more than 23 million tonnes since 1990. Overall, the transportation sector accounted for one-third of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and 37 per cent of the growth in “energy-related emissions sources” since 1990.
“Of particular note was the 109 per cent increase in the emissions from light-duty gasoline trucks . . . reflecting the growing popularity of sport-utility vehicles, vans and light trucks,” said the report. “These vehicles . . . emit, on average, 40 per cent more GHG emissions per kilometre than gasoline automobiles.”
Environmentalists said the numbers demonstrate that new federal U.S. tailpipe pollution standards are not strong enough since they would not necessarily require reductions in emissions before 2020, as opposed to proposed regulations in California that require manufacturers to lower emissions from light trucks by an average of 25 per cent by 2015.
“This (report) clearly shows the need for government to put strict curbs on emissions from vehicles, particularly on light trucks,” said Emilie Moorhouse, an atmosphere and energy campaigner at the Sierra Club of Canada. “It also highlights the industry’s exploitation of loopholes in order to manufacture and market the most polluting, gas guzzling vehicles.”
The federal government has said that it would use the U.S. standards as a baseline for its own proposed regulations.
The publication also said that Canada is feeling serious impacts of global warming on its territory, such as new insect infestations and melting glaciers.
“Climate change is predicted to affect all Canadians to a greater or lesser extent as a result of its impact on their environment, health and economy,” said the report. “Climate changes are expected to vary regionally. While it is not possible to predict changes with certainty, there is a very high degree of agreement among scientists that changes are already occurring and that further changes will occur.”
The federal statistical agency also noted that average temperatures in Canada rose by 1.4 degrees Celsius from 1948 to 2007.
“Canadians will face challenges in dealing with and adapting to the effects of climate change,” said the report. “Regional droughts may result in water shortages; rising sea levels and heavy precipitation events may lead to greater flood damage; warmer temperatures will favour more frequent thunderstorms and tornadoes.”
Celebrating Earth day, Environment Minister John Baird said that tackling climate change was among his top priorities along with protecting parks, wildlife and water.
“This government recognizes that the health of our environment is fundamentally linked to the health of our people,” said Baird. “Canadians can look forward to a lasting legacy from this government on the environment, but must work together.”