With modest fanfare, Environment Canada announced the other day that Canada’s greenhouse gases (GHGs) stopped rising between 2004 and 2005. The reason? Environment Canada tries to make it look the mild winter of 2004–2005, which meant that people burned less oil and gas for space heating, played a major role. But a hard look at the numbers shows that the real reason is because previously mothballed nuclear power generating units returned to service in Ontario’s electricity system.
When Environment Canada releases the numbers for 2006, it might even show a reduction in Canada’s GHGs: 2006 was Pickering unit 1’s first full year back on the job. This 515 megawatt unit, generating baseload power, directly displaced an equivalent amount of coal generation. Preliminary data from the Independent Electricity System Operator indicate that Ontario’s electricity GHGs were 30 million tonnes in 2006. That’s 15 million tonnes less than in 2003.
A staffer to Environment Minister John Baird told the Toronto Star that Ontario’s nuclear renaissance actually began under the Mike Harris Conservatives. Of course he didn’t point out that the stunning emission reductions have all occurred during Dalton McGuinty’s premiership.
In view of this you might think that McGuinty—who came to power promising to deal decisively with electricity emissions, and who has taken it on the chin for not closing the coal plants—would blow his own horn over this. After all, Ontario’s 15 million tonne reduction is, by far, the biggest since Canada signed Kyoto. But McGuinty has shown a baffling reluctance to either acknowledge the emission reductions or to attribute them to his own decision to restart Pickering unit 1.
Is this a case of McGuinty being too afraid of the green lobbyists, who are all anti-nuclear? Or do his advisers just not know how to spin it? Either way, he’d better start taking credit for Canada’s biggest emission reduction. He’s being out-spun, right in his own backyard, by the federal Conservatives.