Canada’s Biggest Eco Embarrassments

Green Living performed a reality check on the nation’s environmental record—and the results weren’t pretty

Embarrassment #1: Colossal Climate Fossil

The tar sands is a major contributor, not surprisingly, to the fact that Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions were 29 percent higher in 2007 than they were in 1990—when we are supposed to achieve a reduction of a mere six percent below 1990 levels, according to the Kyoto Accord, by 2012. This puts us at the top of the G8 nations for greenhouse gas emissions growth and, along with notorious political obstruction at UN climate change talks in Poznan, Poland, in 2008, earned us the dubious title of “Colossal Fossil.”

But we can’t just blame the oil and gas industry: Canadians have always had big greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Big roads, big cars and big houses haven’t kept our energy footprint small, nor has there been much pressure on industry to green up its act.

Now our profligate energy use is attracting attention around the world: “Canada has been one of the main blockages to getting a decent deal at international climate talks in the past, and now seems to be one of the main stumbling blocks now to reasonable reductions targets in Copenhagen [where world governments are meeting in December to hammer out a climate accord]—this is a big problem for the whole world,” says British tar sands and climate campaigner Jess Worth. “People are waking up to this now because they are starting to look to Copenhagen and realizing Canada is one of the ‘bad guys.' ”