Environmental groups chide Harper government for taking credit for emission reductions

Environment minister Peter Kent held court Wednesday to announce the findings of a report which claims Canada is halfway toward meeting its 2020 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs).

"This is the result of our government's realistic, sector-by-sector approach to reducing emissions, while continuing to create jobs and encourage economic growth," Kent told reporters.

But critics say Ottawa is taking credit for something it had little to do with.

According to CBC News, the Environment Canada report credits the provinces for doing a lot of the heavy lifting to reduce GGEs over the past year. Quebec, for example, introduced a so-called cap-and-trade system that limits the amount of GGEs each industrial sector can produce.

[ Related: Canada must focus on energy sector to meet emissions target ]

The report notes that the new numbers can also be attributed to new building construction, new fuel efficiency vehicle standards and the inclusion for the first time of land-use practices that are governed by a United Nations agreement.

"The Harper government continues to overstate the federal government's accomplishments on climate change while understating the scale of challenges remaining," P.J. Partington, a policy analyst with the left-leaning Pembina Institute said in a press release.

"The progress reflected in this year's emissions trends report is largely the result of updated baselines and accounting rules for greenhouse gas pollution, as well as the considerable action some provinces are taking to reduce their emissions.

"The federal government ought to build on these provincial success stories to address the challenges ahead, rather than taking credit for a drop in emissions that has little to do with federal policy."

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Environmental activist Franke James hopes Canadians aren't fooled by Kent's statements.

"I think the average Canadian hearing this news will [cheer] and think that progress has been made by the Harper government. But they shouldn't be. In reality the claim that we're halfway to our 2020 emissions target is accounting smoke and mirrors," she told Yahoo! Canada News.

"The big elephant in the room is that the oil sands are still Canada's fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. The oil sands are expected to grow rapidly over the next eight years -- effectively undoing carbon cuts made in other sectors. Canada could, and should, be doing so much more. Instead of being leaders, we are laggards."