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Canada gets low ranking in climate report, feds say findings are flawed

OTTAWA _ A report by a top advisory panel ranks Canada near the bottom of G8 countries when it comes to climate change and the economy, but Environment Minister Jim Prentice is dismissing the results.

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy places Canada sixth among G8 nations in its new low-carbon performance index.

However, Prentice says the rankings are flawed, and he plans to take it up with the federally appointed think-tank.

“I’m not happy with the report, frankly,” Prentice said. “And I’ve instructed my staff to schedule a meeting with the round table to discuss my concerns about the methodology that’s been arrived at in this report.”

The round table’s index assesses five key categories and 15 indicators. The categories are emissions and energy, innovation, investment, skills, and policy and institutions.

It measures, among other things, a country’s level of clean-technology investment, low-carbon financial stimulus and national carbon-pricing measures.

Prentice sees contradictions in the report.

“For example, in the methodology it criticizes Canada for selling energy to the Americans, but then it gives the Americans a gold star for consuming energy produced in Canada,” he said.

“So I don’t know how anyone can explain that as valid methodology to me.”

He added that the report “ignores” progress Canada has made on the environment in recent years. He cited an international commitment signed in Copenhagen last December, new North American standards for tailpipe emissions, and ethanol content requirements in gasoline and diesel.

Essentially, the report measures how a country’s economy functions at low levels of greenhouse-gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product.

France, Germany and Britain placed highest overall, followed by Japan and the United States. Canada finished ahead of Italy and Russia. Only a few points separated Canada from Japan and the U.S.

“Canada’s overall ranking is principally a function of an economy that is based on high-carbon energy emissions and of the weak performance in the policy and institutions category,” the report says.

“While clearly not a leading low-carbon performer, the LCPI does show Canada positioned to do better relative to some of its main competitors, particularly the United States, if actions are taken to reduce our energy emissions profile and institute low-carbon growth plans and policies.”

While Canada placed sixth overall, the country ranked first in skills and third in innovation under the performance index.

It’s the first time the round table has produced the low-carbon index. It’s part of a series of reports on the economic risks and opportunities for Canada of climate change.

“Carbon is the new currency in the global economy,” said David McLaughlin, president and CEO of the advisory panel. “And in a low-carbon world, the environment is the economy. So you’ve got to actually look at things differently.

“So there’s going to be a transition. The transition is starting. We’re seeing the kinds of investments that are happening. We’re seeing that there’s a shift that’s going on. The round table is very bullish on the need for Canada to win and for Canada to succeed.”

Discussion of climate change and the environment has been pushed to the margins of next month’s G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto.

The Conservative government has made it clear the summits will focus on the continuing global economic recovery. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said this week that other issues are “sideshows.”

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