DSF comments on improving methane regulation, protecting species at risk and 2 Billion Trees

OTTAWA | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABEG PEOPLE — Today, the David Suzuki Foundation released comments on three of the five spring reports from Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

On greenhouse gas emissions and methane, Tom Green, Senior Climate Policy Adviser, said:

“This report shows we desperately need a measurement-based inventory of methane in Canada. Without one, we won’t be able to assess whether regulations are working or if the oil and gas industry is really cleaning up its act. The current approach underestimates methane emissions by anywhere from 25 to 90 per cent.

“Methane is responsible for more than 25 per cent of the rise in global temperatures. Reducing oil and gas methane emissions is among the fastest and cheapest ways to slow the rate of warming.

“The commissioner found Environment and Climate Change Canada does not have the information it needs to ensure provincial regulations achieve the same environmental outcomes as the federal methane regulations.

“Currently, the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions are calculated through complex models based on flawed data rather than measuring actual methane releases. A recent cloud of methane pollution over the Alberta and Saskatchewan border surprised government and industry alike and was only discovered because of a European satellite. In Saskatchewan, heavy oil facilities were found to be releasing 3.9 times as much methane as was reported in the inventory. In British Columbia, research shows methane pollution in the oil and gas sector is at least 2.5 times greater than reported by industry and government.

“A fully funded Centre of Excellence for oil and gas methane reduction could help accurately measure and monitor methane emissions so the sector can be properly regulated.

“The federal government needs to move quickly on putting into place new methane regulations to ensure the oil and gas industry eliminates at least 75 per cent of methane emissions by 2030. We are pleased that the department agreed to address the issues identified by the commissioner.”

On the delays in the Species At Risk Act, Boreal Project Manager Rachel Plotkin said:

“When the Act was brought into force in 2002, it’s hard to imagine anyone would have thought it would yield such meagre results. The chronic delays of recovery strategies, action plans and management plans – and the failure to achieve the objectives in these plans when they are finally released, as identified by the Environmental Commissioner – reflect a societal failure to take responsibility for the harms we are inflicting upon the natural world. Unless we collectively make ecological restoration a priority, we face a grossly diminished world.”

On the failure to appropriately use discretionary powers under the Act, such as emergency habitat protection orders, Plotkin said:

“The federal government has frequently skated around or delayed stating the obvious fact that many provinces are failing to effectively protect the habitat of whole suites of at-risk species. These delays and reticence to fully utilize the powers of the Species at Risk Act have secured Canada’s contribution to the sixth mass extinction crisis.

“Hopefully Environment and Climate Change Minister Guilbeault and the federal cabinet will make good on their commitment to halt and reverse the loss of nature and show the leadership needed to uphold the Act. Today’s report notes that a safety net critical habitat protection order has never been issued; DSF has petitioned the Minister to use the safety net to protect caribou habitat in Ontario, where the province is abjectly failing to effectively protect it. As the province still refuses to commit to caribou action plans or effective protection measures, it presents a perfect opportunity for a safety net application.

“The federal government also needs to show that it will act to protect and recover endangered species by saying “no” to the expansion of the Roberts Bank cargo ship terminal near Vancouver where the government’s own scientists determined that the project would cause significant, unmitigable harm to endangered orcas and the chinook salmon that they need to recover.”

On 2 Billion Trees, Director General for Western Canada and Director of Nature programs Jay Ritchlin said:

“From the time the tree planting program was announced, the DSF raised concerns about its intended goal, and we worked with allies and government to improve the design and roll-out of the program. To a certain extent, the delays reported by the Commissioner reflect efforts to get a tree-planting program right and the challenges that should have been expected in such an ambitious program.

“Ultimately, it is critical that government-supported tree planting be judged for how much new, permanent and ecologically healthy forest cover is created in Canada. Targeting the planting to areas with high carbon sequestration potential is fine, but climate goals require the focus to be on reducing GHG emissions from all sectors of society, understanding that tree-planting is more about the long-term stability of the climate and resilience of ecosystems and communities.”

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For more information or a media interview, please contact:

Melanie Karalis, mkaralis@davidsuzuki.org, 548-588-1279