How Canada funds green technology innovation was a hit among many misses in Tuesday's audits of how the federal government is responding to climate change.

"Canada has missed all of its reduction targets since 1992 and is also not on track to meet the 2020 targets," Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner Julie Gelfand said Tuesday. "Overall we found that the federal government is not prepared to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate."

Still, how the government has managed three programs dedicated to fostering the development of clean energy technologies — the Clean Energy Fund, the ecoENERGY Technology Initiative, and the SD Tech Fund — stood out as a "positive note."

"Overall, we found that both Natural Resources Canada and Sustainable Development Technology Canada had rigorous and objective processes in place to assess, approve, and monitor projects" that were funded through the programs, the audit said. "This finding matters because the government spent significant amounts to fund clean energy technology projects. It is important for the federal organizations involved to demonstrate due diligence in assessing and approving projects."

Three federal funding programs
The three funding programs assessed by the Auditor General's office that stood out as a "positive note" on Oct. 3, 2017. Image provided by the Auditor General of Canada

Nonethelesss, Gelfand's team of auditors highlighted areas for improvement. Notably, Canadians need to know what the rate of greenhouse gas emission reductions is among projects, and how money spent actually translates to progress on climate change.

At its core, the Funding Clean Energy Technologies audit held the development of new technologies as key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions; these include carbon capture projects.

Carbon sequestration facilities are meant to collect and bury carbon dioxide deep underground, while carbon capture and utilization facilities might for example inject carbon into the ground to recover oil. Their primary aim is to reduce greenhouse gases while maintaining the industrial work of, for example, coal-fired electricity plants, chemical and fertilizer plans, oil and gas production, and steel and cement production.

Carbon capture and storage projects are also somewhat controversial, or seen as needing more research. Saskatchewan is home to Canada's and the world's first industrial carbon capture drive; a recent international study has thrown some doubt on the results at a coal-fired power plant in Estevan, Sask.