Two years ago, environmental groups hailed the federal election results as a victory after nearly two in three voters chose a party with a clear commitment to fighting climate change.
Monday’s election may have yielded almost the same seat count as the last vote, but environmental leaders say that from where they sit there is a big difference.
“Now 95% of Canadians voted for climate action,” said Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defense.
Only the People’s Party of Canada had no climate action in its plan, he said.
The conservative climate plan in 2019 was widely criticized for lacking detail and ambition, something that Erin O’Toole acknowledged was a weakness. He made a climate plan a priority after assuming leadership in 2020, launching a climate plan months before the elections that included a form of carbon pricing, reversing more than a decade of conservative policy that carbon pricing. Carbon was “a tax on everything.” . “
O’Toole’s plan was even less ambitious than the other parties’, but it was still a commitment to act, said Isabelle Turcotte, federal policy director at the clean energy thinktank Pembina Institute.
“Even if we have different benchmarks for progress in different parts and in different groups of Canadians, we have parties across the board that have proposed stronger climate platforms than in 2019,” he said. “And climate action, the way forward was not used as a wedge issue for political gain. And that is, for me, a victory.”
Both Gray and Turcotte said that now there is no time to waste, no more time for legal battles over federal jurisdiction, no more time for endless consultations that ultimately drag ambition backwards.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Associated Press before this week’s UN General Assembly meetings in New York that the world was “on the brink and we cannot afford to step into the wrong address. “
“Hmmm, it sounds pretty urgent doesn’t it?” Gray said. “We do not have time”.
The next UN climate meeting is scheduled for early November in Scotland, and pressure is mounting for rich countries like Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom to expand both national action and global funding to help poorer nations to to keep up to date.
Environmental groups say all parties are now firmly behind strong action on climate change. #CdnPoli # Elxn44 # Climate Change
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to attend that meeting, which was delayed a year by COVID-19.
Gray said Canada is now behind many of its peers in climate action. That includes the US, which under President Joe Biden now has higher emissions reduction targets than Canada and is spending three times more per capita on climate initiatives.
In 2015, when Trudeau took part in the Paris climate agreement talks just weeks after his first electoral victory, he and the climate policies of his new government were viewed quite favorably both inside and outside of Canada. Fast forward six years, and that reputation is tarnished, with Canada’s emissions actually higher than in 2015, and frustration at the lack of action to curb emissions from the oil and gas sector.
Gray said the liberal climate platform finally promises that will change. The ticket’s biggest promise in the 2021 plan is to limit emissions from the oil and gas industries, and then set five-year targets to keep lowering those limits, until they reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Net zero means no emissions are added to the atmosphere, with anything produced caught by nature or technology.
But that promise is vague, with no limits or actual goals set, and a vague promise to set the limits in consultation with the industry. Trudeau has the advantage that most oil companies in Canada have already promised to reach net zero by 2050.
Gray said there can be no endless consultations to set those goals.
Liberals also promise much stricter regulations to push electric vehicles on Canada’s roads, requiring that by 2030, half of all passenger cars sold be electric, and by 2035, all should be.
Transportation and fossil fuel production were the top two drivers of Canada’s emissions growth between 2015 and 2019, offsetting the significant gains made with the closure of coal-fired power plants.
Liberals presented tougher targets to the UN in July, moving emissions cuts from 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, to 40 to 45 percent.
Meeting Canada’s new targets means reducing between 292 million tons and 328.5 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. That’s roughly what 64 million to 71 million passenger cars would produce over the course of a year. Canada, for the record, only has 23 million passenger cars on the road today.
This Canadian Press report was first published on September 22, 2021.