The Conservative party Web site claims that the Harper government introduced a "balanced, achievable plan to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020".
However, a new book by UVic climate-modelling expert Andrew Weaver, a lead author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pours a bucket of ice on that suggestion.
In Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World, Weaver writes that the Harper government's climate-change plan focuses on emission-intensity reductions, rather than overall reductions.
In other words, emissions can still increase overall as long as there are restrictions on emissions per unit of production.
"Matthew Bramley provided a lovely example of what this means in his 2007 Pembina Institute report," Weaver writes. "From the information provided in the federal plan, we learn that by 2020 the oil sands sector will be required to reduce its emissions intensity by 23%. But oil sands production is also expected to quadruple by 2020."
Weaver notes that as a result of federal regulation during this period, the net effect would be to allow a tripling of greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands.
In addition, Weaver cites a report for the C.D. Howe Institute, which was written by SFU resource economist Mark Jaccard and his colleague Nic Rivers.
"As one would expect, they found that the Conservative government's policies would certainly lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from levels that would have existed if nothing were done," Weaver writes. "However, greenhouse gas emissions would not drop below 2006 levels. The reason was obvious. Emission-intensity targets do not imply emission reductions."