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Canada Posts Highest Per Capita Emissions as G20 Falls Short on Climate Action

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Governments in 19 of the world’s 20 biggest economies—including Canada—are still paying closer attention to fossil lobbyists than their own scientists’ advice, and are falling far short in their response to the climate crisis, according to new analysis released this week by the global Climate Transparency partnership.

The release points to Canada as the G20 country with the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions, The Canadian Press reports [1]. “Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, said Canada may only be responsible for 2% of the total,” CP notes. “But she added that 2% is still a significant contribution when you consider Canada’s size,” with the world’s 38th-largest population, its 11th-largest economy, and its seventh-highest emissions.

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“It’s because of the oil sands and because of transportation,” Abreu said. “Oil and gas and transportation are the two largest and fastest-growing sources of emissions in the country.”

The report [3] shows greenhouse gas emissions still rising in 15 of the 20 G20 countries and “82% of energy in these countries still being provided by coal, oil, and gas, a factor which has relied on an increase of about 50% in subsidies over the past 10 years to compete with increasingly cheap wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources,” The Guardian reports.

Fossil subsidies hit US$147 billion in 2016, nearly a decade after the G20 pledged to phase them out, the report states.

“There is a huge fight by the fossil fuel industry against cheap renewables,” said report co-author Jan Burck. “The old economy is well organized, and they have put huge lobbying pressure on governments to spend tax money to subsidize the old world.” The net result: “The gap is still very big,” and “the G20 is not moving fast enough.”

The Guardian notes that “political pressures are likely to intensify as governments are called upon to extend emissions cuts to the transport and agriculture sectors. The report said G20 emissions needed to start declining in the next two years and halve by 2030 if the world were to avoid more than 1.5°C of warming, though not one country in the group had set a credible target to do this.

Of all the G20 countries, Climate Transparency concludes that only India is on track to hit the below-2.0°C target for average global warming in the Paris Agreement. The worst offenders, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, are on emissions trajectories that would boost warming beyond 4.0°C.

China, the world’s biggest emitter, stabilized its releases of carbon for a couple of years by reducing dependency on coal, but this positive trend slipped last year,” The Guardian notes. “Indonesia, Brazil, and Argentina have promised to cut deforestation, but the destruction rate of forests shows no sign of reversing.”

While “Britain has made the fastest transition,” cutting fossil fuel use by 7.7% between 2012 and 2015, “this could stall in the years ahead because the government had cut support for feed-in tariffs, energy efficiency, and zero-carbon homes,” the UK-based newspaper notes.