More action to fight climate change needed

Top federal civil servants have warned that more action is needed to combat climate change and manage its risks to communities, government infrastructure, food security and human health.

They have also identified priority areas for potential “government intervention” on energy and environmental innovation, including action on unconventional oil and gas, water and nextgeneration transportation. The report was prepared for Canada’s top bureaucrat Wayne Wouters, clerk of the Privy Council, by the deputy ministers’ committee on climate change, energy and the environment. Wouters directly advises Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The document sheds intriguing light on what’s unfolding within the government on how Canada should both mitigate and respond to climate change, and which emerging energy and environmental industries Ottawa may financially support in the future.

It also raise more questions about why the Conservatives have hesitated to introduce greenhouse gas regulations for the energy industry, when even the most senior federal bureaucrats are flagging their concerns.

The August 2013 report – labelled “SECRET” – was obtained by Postmedia News under access-to-information legislation.

It says Canada is likely to face “significant challenges to mitigate GHG emissions beyond 2020,” given its energy-intensive and export-oriented economy. Clean-technology innovation is needed to achieve deep, long-term emissions reductions, the report says.

Impacts from climatechange – disappearing Arctic sea ice, thawing permafrost, rising sea levels, and increased risks of severe weather – are being felt across Canada, the report says, and are likely to worsen “as the climate continues to change in the future.

Specifically, it adds, more work is needed to address potential risks to $65 billion in federal assets – such as roads and airports in the North that are vulnerable to thawing permafrost – as well as the ability of federal departments and agencies to deliver programs and services.

The government has long promised greenhouse gas regulations for the oil and gas industry, but those standards – years in the making – have been repeatedly delayed. Alberta’s oilsands are the country’s fastestgrowing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Paul Boothe, a former deputy minister of the environment in the Conservative government, said it’s in Canada’s interests, both economically and environmentally, to act on emissions regulations for the energy sector. “Real action” on climate change would make it easier for Canada to sell its oil and gas internationally, Boothe said.

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