Canada will miss its 2030 target for cutting carbon emissions unless it quickly steps up efforts, concluded an audit released Tuesday by the environment commissioner.
Ottawa has set a target of slashing total carbon emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. But the audit found it is likely to reach only a 34 percent CO2 reduction.
This leaves a gap of six percent to 11 percent.
Environment Commissioner Jerry DeMarco in his report laid the blame for the projected shortfall on delayed climate measures such as a cap on oil and gas sector emissions and new clean fuel regulations.
Those delays were due to the Covid-19 pandemic and longer than expected consultations with stakeholders, according to the government.
"We found that the measures most critical for reducing emissions had not been identified or prioritized," DeMarco said in the report.
Ottawa has spent billions of dollars rolling out more than 10 climate plans since 1990 and all so far have failed to achieve their goals.
"Canada's current emissions are significantly higher than they were in 1990," DeMarco noted, adding that there was now an "urgent need for rapid, deep emission cuts in Canada's fight against catastrophic climate change."
A major "course correction is critical to achieving the target," he concluded.
The audit comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces pushback from opposition parties and provinces on the centerpiece of his climate strategy -- a carbon tax that is set to incrementally rise to Can$170 per metric ton by the end of the decade.
Critics, citing soaring costs-of-living, are demanding a pause in the collection of the levy until inflation stabilizes, particularly on home heating fuels as winter looms.
DeMarco's audit also found troublesome that responsibility for reducing emissions was fragmented among multiple federal organizations that were not directly accountable to the environment minister.
Also, fewer than half of the measures in Canada's most recent climate plan, announced in March 2022, had implementation deadlines.
And, DeMarco lamented, the government's climate modelling included "overly optimistic assumptions, limited analysis of uncertainties," and lacked peer review.
Ottawa has accepted his recommendations to try to turn things around. Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said: "The commissioner is correct -- there is still work to be done to meet our ambitious, but achievable, 2030 goal of at least 40 percent emissions reductions compared to 2005 levels."
Canada represents only 1.6 percent of global CO2 emissions, but it is among the top 10 largest emitters in the world and one of the highest emitters per capita.
It is also the world's fourth-largest oil producer.
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