Friday, April 13, 2007

Intensity Targets

Excerpt from the David Suzuki Foundation mail-out:
(...)One type of plan, in theory to reduce global warming, involves something called “intensity” targets. A smiling politician will often stand up and proudly proclaim new intensity-based greenhouse gas targets as the foundation of that government’s plan to fight global warming.

Unfortunately, intensity-based targets will do no such thing. Greenhouse gas intensity refers to the amount of greenhouse gases produced per unit of economic activity (GDP, for example). Right away, you can likely see the problem with such a plan. If targets are tied to economic growth, then actual greenhouse gas emissions can continue to rise, so long as they decrease relative to economic expansion.

Here’s an example: Between 1990 and 2004, Canada’s industries reduced their greenhouse gas emissions intensity by six per cent. Fantastic! Based on this approach we appear to be well on our way to solving the problem. Well, not so fast. Because the economy grew so much during that period, Canadian industries’ actual emissions grew by 13 per cent.

(...)Yet, many politicians love intensity-based targets. That’s because industries love them. It enables them to have their proverbial cake and eat it too. They appear to be reducing global warming pollution, while actually expanding and polluting even more. U.S. president George W. Bush favours intensity targets. As did former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

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