GOLDSTEIN: Why Trudeau’s climate ‘plan’ is doomed to fail

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Canada’s C.D. Howe Institute recently gathered experts in four of the seven major sectors of our economy that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is targeting to lower Canada’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions to 40%-45% below 2005 levels by 2030.

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The four sectors — oil and gas, transportation, buildings and electricity — account for more than 70% of Canada’s 2020 emissions, the last year for which government data are available.

They were asked to assess how realistic Trudeau’s targets are, given that their industries will have to implement them.

Their verdict was that Environment and Climate Change Canada’s 2020 Emissions Reduction Plan is not a real plan.

Rather it is “a plan to have a plan … The cross-sector scope and economy-wide scale of the plan makes it unprecedented in modern Canadian history. No speaker or participant unreservedly found the plan’s aspirations easily achievable.”

While couched in diplomatic language — because every sector of the economy will have to deal with the federal government on lowering emissions — their verdict was clearly that Trudeau’s plan is aspirational as opposed to realistic.

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In other words, it’s a “stretch goal” that both the government implementing it and the economic sectors that will have to achieve it know is unrealistic, no matter how many times Trudeau and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault insist it can be done.

The same thing happened starting in 2016, when Trudeau and then environment minister Catherine McKenna repeatedly said their 2020 target to reduce emissions (which used to be Stephen Harper’s target) was feasible and a “floor” to what they intended to achieve.

They didn’t even come close.

Now let’s get down to the substance of what the industry experts reported about Trudeau’s 2030 emissions target, which is supposed to pave the way to “net zero” emissions by 2050.

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They said Trudeau’s target, less than eight years away, is unrealistic because of the time it takes for governments to approve new infrastructure projects needed to lower emissions — some relying on technologies that haven’t been invented.

As one of many examples of government red tape standing in the way of achieving Trudeau’s 2030 target, one participant noted Canada finished in 64th place in the World Bank’s 2020 ranking of how long it takes for industries to obtain construction permits.

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Then there’s the issues of supply chain bottlenecks, skilled labour shortages, rising global demand for fossil fuel energy and the fact many initiatives must be approved by federal, provincial and Indigenous jurisdictions.

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The industry experts noted Conservative and Liberal governments have missed every emission reduction target they’ve set going back 34 years — in 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2010, 2015 and 2016 — making it “unlikely” Trudeau will hit his 2030 target announced in 2021.

One participant in the building sector said that in order to hit Trudeau’s 2030 emission target, 130,000 buildings per year would have to be retrofitted in Toronto alone.

Participants also cited the need for greater certainty and durability in government policies with regard to carbon pricing and taxation, so that industries can plan their efforts to reduce emissions over the long term.

These findings are more proof — as if more was needed — that in 2030, Canada will once again be so far behind its emission reduction targets that the 2050 target will be unachievable, leaving it to future governments to clean up the mess.

The only question is how much Canadian taxpayers will pay through carbon taxes and pricing for a plan that will fail.

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