March 8, 2011

Intensity targets send no signals

In an op-ed piece recently published in the Edmonton Journal, Professor Andrew Leach, of the University of Alberta, suggests five changes to Alberta’s GHG regulations and says that these changes if implemented will send strong signals that we’re doing something significant about climate change.

I disagree.

Professor Leach’s plan will resonate no more than the government’s current plan has, because his plan, like the government’s plan, is built on intensity targets.

An intensity target is a performance measure that defines the amount of GHGs emitted per unit of product produced. As a way of improving production efficiencies, intensity targets are great. But as a way of reducing overall GHG emissions, intensity targets are a sham.

Curently, Alberta produces a million plus barrels of oil per day, but the intention is to increase that fourfold by 2020. At that rate, even if all producers meet their intensity targets, overall GHG emissions will rise considerably, but at a marginally slower rate.

If we really want to signal that were doing something serious about climate change, then we should abandon intensity targets in favour of actual GHG emission reduction targets.

[Update: Professor Leach responds here.]

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