Back to Reality: Climate change action status in Canada
According to report conclusions:
“Canada will not achieve its target unless significant new, additional measures are taken. More will have to be done. No other conclusion is possible.”
Where did this report come from?
The report was originally requested by the Federal Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Peter Kent. The report looks into what each province and territory is doing to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and how these efforts help Canada reach its federal climate change targets for the year 2020. This is significant, as it is the first time that a report has assessed the impact of all federal and provincial government policies on actually reaching Canadian emission targets. Canada’s target is to reduce GHG emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, which is considered a very modest goal in comparison to other countries. While we are part-way there, more emission cuts must be done up front to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
What does this mean in the bigger picture?
The report concluded what perhaps should have been obvious: a national climate change target needs a national climate change plan behind it. This could be done in and of itself, or Canada could pursue a sustainable national energy strategy. An energy strategy is essential to an effective climate change strategy, and vice versa , as the majority of emissions contributing to climate change come from energy.
What would it take for Canada to meet its targets?
Canada can’t achieve its target without Alberta, but Alberta alone won’t do it. Alberta transitioning off coal, just like Ontario chose to do, will be a big piece of the equation. Ontario’s all-party commitment to get off coal was the single biggest emission cut not just in Canada, but across North America. This, supported by a sustainable national energy strategy, that encompasses a plan for the oil sands, is imperative. While provinces are responsible for energy, land and natural resources, the federal government is responsible for climate change policy (based on the constitutional responsibility of peace, order and good governance). This represents a distinct overlap and need for collaboration.
Canada’s emissions over time. Most recent dip is largely due to the phase-out of coal power in Ontario.
What happens now?
Looking ahead, there are two major events that are very linked to Canada’s emissions:
1. Tonight, Members of Parliament begin voting on amendments to Bill C-38, which is an omnibus bill that deletes the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act on climate change, moving us further away from a plan on climate change.
2. Right now there is a growing conversation about the need for a sustainable national energy strategy,. The idea is being pioneered by Premier Redford of Alberta. All the Premiers are meeting in July for the Council of the Federation. And in early fall, all the energy ministers will meet. The time is ripe to move on a provincial and territorial lead on energy and climate change by building a sustainable national energy strategy. This is the biggest upcoming opportunity to move Canada towards deeper, necessary emission reductions.
We can do better:
At the end of the day, we must have a cross-Canada conversation on how to do better. More is needed. The world is going places and we are out of step. Canada needs to hear from the Prime Minister and his cabinet on what the Government of Canada’s response will be to this major and revealing analysis. What Canada has planned is not enough – so what is the plan that will get us there? How will the federal government support the work that provinces and territories have done to date? These are all questions to be asking in the weeks ahead.