Canadian consumption remains high: environmental scorecard

Canada’s environmental performance has received low marks in comparison to 17 other developed countries in a recent report. The latest Conference Board of Canada How Canada Performs environmental scorecard looked at a number of factors including air quality, waste, water usage, GHG emissions and energy intensity. Canada came in 15th place overall in the rankings, ahead only of the US and Australia. While not surprising as a large, resource-based economy, this ranking is still disappointing. The report highlights our relatively relaxed personal consumption patterns. Canadians ranked last on waste generation, producing 777kg of municipal waste per capita in 2008. And Canada’s water usage is “nearly double the 16-country average”, according to the Conference Board, due to both relatively high household water use and industrial use. With lack of water awareness among Canadians one factor in household consumption, lack of universal water metering in Canada is also an issue. So while there has been some progress on personal water consumption, for example, the largest city in the country, Toronto, is just now implementing pay-as-you-use metering. There were some bright spots, with improving grades between 1990 and 2009 across many categories, and good grades for water quality, protecting species at risk, production of low-emitting energy, and forest intensity (actual harvest as a per cent of annual growth). Sulphur oxides emissions produced by industrial activity have also reduced (even as per capita nitrous oxides emissions produced in part by traffic/transportation remain high). Per capita greenhouse gas emissions are also still high, with Canada earning D grades for energy intensity (or ratio of energy production to GDP) and emissions, in part due to exports of fossil fuels. “Fossil fuel production and consumption account for 82% of Canada’s GHG emissions” according to the Trottier Energy Futures Project. The current federal government remains focused on trade diversification and developing and expanding markets for resources. However, a new report released by the Trottier Energy Futures Project has concluded, in looking at efforts of seven other developed economies, that it would be possible for Canada to reduce GHG emissions by 80% by 2050. This achievement would require the re-organization of our sources of energy supply, reducing fossil fuel use, and increasing energy efficiency and biofuel use. The recent environmental scorecard results serve as a signpost for Canada’s current resource consumption patterns, and both new reports are a reminder of the ongoing need for ambitious targets and strategies. Data sources for scorecard: Water consumption information: Trottier Energy Futures Project: