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Province's carbon emissions jump

Now farther than ever from long-abandoned Kyoto goal

A Manitoba government graphic shows the fluctuations in Manitoba's greenhouse gas emissions since 1990.

Enlarge Image

A Manitoba government graphic shows the fluctuations in Manitoba's greenhouse gas emissions since 1990.

Transportation  emissions, which make up more than 40 per cent of Manitoba's greenhouse gas emissions, have risen consistently since 1990.

Enlarge Image

Transportation emissions, which make up more than 40 per cent of Manitoba's greenhouse gas emissions, have risen consistently since 1990. (WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES)

The province's greenhouse gas emissions spiked in 2012 after five years of small but steady declines.

That moves Manitoba even further away from its original Kyoto targets, now long abandoned.

The new data, contained in an annual climate change progress report released with little fanfare last week, peg Manitoba's 2012 carbon emissions at 20,500 kilotonnes. That's a five per cent increase over 2011, and it's the first year-over-year increase since 2006.

Emissions data, which are complicated to track, are typically two years old when they're finally tallied and made public. The province's latest figures are projections. Official data for 2012 will be released by Environment Canada this spring.

Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh, whose department is now crafting a next-generation climate action plan, said Manitoba's emissions spike is due to the rebound in agriculture following the 2011 flood. The transportation sector also saw an increase in emissions. Cars, trucks and rail lines create more than 40 per cent of the province's greenhouse gases. Transportation emissions have increased steadily since 1990.

Mackintosh repeated what's become the province's good-news emissions talking point: Since 2000, Manitoba's population has increased by 11 per cent, the economy has grown by nearly a third but emissions are down two per cent.

"We know these reductions are not enough," said Mackintosh. "We have to recalibrate our efforts."

Curt Hull of Climate Change Connection said Manitoba frequently highlights the wrong figures in order to paint a rosy picture of progress on climate change.

To avert global disaster, the increase in the average global temperature must remain within 2 C, scientists say. That means humans must cap their carbon emissions at about 565 gigatons between now and mid-century, no matter how much the population or the global economy grows.

Hull said focusing on per capita emissions or economic growth instead of total tonnes distorts the real picture.

"We end up patting ourselves on the back for taking baby steps," said Hull. "It prevents us from taking the real quantum leap away from fossil fuels."

Conservative MLA Shannon Martin, the opposition critic for conservation and water issues, said the NDP's promise to shrink greenhouse gases was a glib one, with little follow-through. He declined to say how the Tories would combat climate change, but said the party would set realistic and attainable targets.

Over the next year, the province is expected to release its next climate action plan, one that focuses on developing green jobs. The NDP's original promise -- made in 2008 and enshrined in legislation -- to meet the now-obsolete Kyoto targets has since been abandoned. The province is still 3,300 kilotonnes shy of achieving the Kyoto goals.

Manitoba Wildlands director Gaile Whelan Enns said the province's latest progress report is short on details and specific data, a problem that plagues much of the way emissions are estimated and modelled across the country, especially when it comes to small industrial emitters.

"We do not do our own counting," said Whelan Enns. "We might find a lot more opportunities for reductions... We might find we're doing a whole lot better."

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

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