Canada’s Climate Action Plan – Better late than never?

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Just in time for the 5 Year Anni of the Paris Accord

  • More than 30 years after Canadian governments started making international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there is now an official path for Canada to meet one of those targets.
  • Key features: $15 Billion in new federal money, 64 new measures and steady increase in carbon price
  • Much attention will be paid to one particular piece of the plan — the increase in the federal carbon price — and that piece is significant. But the document presents 64 “new measures” and $15 billion in federal investment, including an overarching commitment to “integrate climate considerations throughout government decision-making.” Its breadth is worth noting for what that says about how all-encompassing the effort of moving to a low-carbon economy could be. See: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/eccc/documents/pdf/climate-change/climate-plan/healthy_environment_healthy_economy_plan.pdf

    Change in public opinion?

    In recent polling commissioned by Clean Energy Canada, 66 per cent of respondents said they wanted Canada to be among the most ambitious countries in the world when it comes to climate policy. Achieving that status surely begins with reaching Canada’s 2030 target.

    Not all of what the Liberals would like to do is firmly established. There are several commitments to “work with” provinces and sectors of the economy to develop policies in a number of areas — from building supplies and fertilizer to farming and interprovincial power grids.

    But the Liberals estimate that the concrete elements of their plan — when added to the federal and provincial policies that already have been implemented over the last decade — would reduce Canada’s total annual emissions to 503 megatonnes by 2030, pushing this country past its commitment to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below the level of 2005.

    Carbon Pricing

    The key to reducing emissions will be the federal carbon price. Already the most politically controversial element of the existing Liberal plan, it is now set to increase by $15 per tonne each year between 2022 and 2030. That was the headline item from Friday’s package — and perhaps the fact that any party, let alone the one in government, would be willing to propose such an increase shows how much the conversation on climate policy in Canada has shifted.

    Wilkinson also came prepared with other arguments: that almost every economist will tell you pricing carbon is the most efficient way of reducing emissions, that a price on carbon offers an incentive for innovation and — crucially — that it also can be implemented in a way that is “affordable” for Canadians.

    Questions Remain

    Will future governments keep to this commitment? Will behavioral changes be made, especially by corporations in the face of increased energy prices? Will families getting cash rebates switch to a lower carbon life to maximize the dollar value of the rebate?

    For years, the debate around climate policy in Canada has relied on magical thinking — the belief that targets could be set but only half-heartedly pursued, that targets could be met with relatively little effort, that whatever needed to be done could be done later, or by someone else. But the planet is quickly running out of time for magic.

    In recent polling commissioned by Clean Energy Canada, 66 per cent of respondents said they wanted Canada to be among the most ambitious countries in the world when it comes to climate policy. Achieving that status surely begins with reaching Canada’s 2030 target.

    How does this tie in with C-12 …. is this the carrot and C -12 the stick?

    Comments from Chris Shelly in the National Post

    “In Friday’s announcement that the federal carbon tax would soar to $170 a tonne by 2030, adding 28 cents to the average price of a litre of gasoline.”

    Is Canada “joining a global revolution — a wholesale, tax-induced adoption of less mobile, more vegetarian and generally far less consumptive lifestyles in the world’s wealthiest countries.”

    Comment from a letter writer from Ft McMurray

    If one lives in Quebec, heats a home with electricity and drives a subsidized electric car, a $170-a-tonne carbon tax is a fantastic policy. These Canadians will pay next to nothing and receive fat quarterly cheques from the federal government. What’s not to like?

    However if one lives in a place where homes are heated with natural gas and most people drive gasoline vehicles, the tax could add about $8 a gigajoule to the cost of natural gas and 47 cents a litre to the cost of gasoline.

    So let’s hop on the subsidized electric-car bandwagon and heat our homes with electricity, right? Before going down this path, the government should provide a cost estimate and a plan for greatly increasing electricity-generating capacity in this country.

    Peter Christopherson Fort McMurray, Alta.


    Re The Liberals Go All In On The Carbon Tax (Editorial, Dec. 14): If every country on Earth had a target as weak as Canada’s, we would be on track to a world warmer by 5 C.

    The difficulty in understanding how the government’s plan can be heralded as so good, yet its ambition so low, is that we remain misled about what was pledged in Paris. What Canada calls our “Paris target” is incompatible with holding to 1.5 C – the actual Paris target. Ours remains one put in place by Stephen Harper, six months before negotiations began in 2015. Justin Trudeau’s more impressive plan is to reach a target that is approximately half of what must be done if we are serious about holding to 1.5 C.

    As The Globe’s editorial states: “The urgency to act is real.” According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, without Herculean effort, the window on holding to 1.5 C will close – forever – before 2030.

    Elizabeth May OC; MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands; Parliamentary Leader, Green Party of Canada; Sidney, B.C.

    Play it again

    Re If Trudeau Forces An Election, Can O’Toole ‘Do A Diefenbaker’? (Dec. 15): A pipeline scandal, a tired government and a new leader’s populist appeal. That new leader was, of course, John Diefenbaker and the year was 1956. Sixty-four years later, it appears that, in Canadian politics, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

    Chris Gates Quinte West, Ont.

    Not all countries

    Re Inside The Small, Obscure Council That Actually Picks U.S. Presidents (Dec. 14): The fact that the U.S. Constitution allows the election of a president who has not won the popular vote, and is in the end chosen by a small group of people in the Electoral College whom nobody knows, implies that somehow other countries are more democratic. But the world over, prime ministers in most countries are appointed by a head of state. They happen to be leader of the majority or minority in parliament, or are chosen by a coalition. Very few are directly elected as prime minister.

    In Canada, the current Prime Minister’s party received fewer votes than the Opposition. Party leaders are chosen by party members (many of whom buy memberships only to vote at leadership conventions) who, as a group, are as unknown as members of the Electoral College.

    Admittedly less complex – but more democratic?

    Garrett Polman West Vancouver

    On MAID, Part 1

    Re Our Cautious Start To Assisted Suicide Is Accelerating Toward Death-on-demand (Dec. 12): Who is this issue really about? It should be about those who are so severely disabled that they cannot live a fruitful life, that there is no hope. Without hope, what have we? Are there some kind of twisted Christian ethics in our psyche?

    There is nothing good about constant pain, be it physical or mental. Simple as that. Why should people not have the choice to end their lives?

    I have been disabled all my life; I married and raised a family. I cannot say that it ever occurred to me to end the pain, but I am understanding of what that might be like.

    Bruce Craig Hamilton


    We should not be surprised that the “slippery slope” we were warned about back in 1993 is now here, more slippery than ever. We need only look at countries that have adopted similar measures of assisted dying, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, to learn that is the natural way these laws go: more access, larger groups of people who qualify and broader and fewer requirements.

    Thank to columnist Andrew Coyne for waking us up to this frightening reality.

    Joanna Simpson Glencoe, Ont.


    Much as I recognize that medical assistance in dying used to commonly be called “assisted suicide,” it is not suicide.

    My wife and two of our best friends, all suffering from terminal cancer, independently selected MAID this year. None of them, or the close relatives who attended the procedures, regarded the choice as “suicide,” but as a compassionate route to the elimination of pain and a dignified death. I have never heard of “suicide” occurring in the presence of family.

    In that light, I believe columnist Andrew Coyne should rethink some of his conclusions. He seems to think the legislation is moving MAID in the wrong direction. I disagree.

    Peter Hirst Oakville, Ont.

    Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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