The province will no longer be a laggard in Canada when it comes to the climate-change fight, with a new law set to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources, Environment Minister Perry Trimper says.
But the province is still years away from actually forcing industrial emitters to cut back, and the law deals with only a fraction of the province’s overall greenhouse gas production.
Seated beside Trimper at a news conference Tuesday, Jackie Janes, assistant deputy minister responsible for climate change, said that even with the new law in place, the province is still not on track to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target.
“It’s striking that correct balance between the need to move as a jurisdiction, but also being very conscientious of our economy,” Trimper told reporters. “Large industry contributes some 30 per cent to our GDP, so you don’t want to move in such an aggressive fashion, nor do you want to move in a way that’s seen to be top-heavy. This needs to be with industry.”
The government didn’t go with a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade scheme, but instead opted for an approach that’s being called “regulation with flexible compliance options.”
Essentially, for the next two years large industrial emitters will have to report detailed information about their emissions to the government, and once some baseline data is created, the government will set greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Trimper said he doesn’t know what those targets will be — that’s a decision that will be made in consultation with industry sometime in the coming years.
To meet the targets, polluters can implement measures to cut emissions, they can offset their emissions or they can pay into a technology fund, and that money will be used by the government to support other climate-change projects in the province.
The government’s current target for 2020 is to reduce emissions by 10 per cent below 1990 levels.
But regulating onshore large industry deals with only 19 per cent of the province’s overall emissions.
Assuming the Muskrat Falls project happens as planned, the government will get some help from shutting down the Holyrood power plant, which represents nine per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the province.
To regulate the offshore oil industry, the government will need to work with the federal government, because it’s a matter of joint jurisdiction.
So far, there’s no plan to deal with transportation sources of emissions, which contribute 34 per cent of greenhouse gases in the province, or fuel use in buildings, such as burning oil.
The only measures in place right now are the government’s Turn Back the Tide education and awareness campaign.
Ted Lomond, executive director of the NL Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) said the legislation is good — as far as it goes — and will help environmentally oriented businesses in the province.
“What’s going to be critical for this thing to work is industry consultation in the development of the regulations,” Lomond said. “I mean, the legislation really only provides a framework, right? The regulations that support the legislation are going to be key.”