14 Miracle workers start their magic …. our own Net Zero Advisory Body

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It’s a tall order, to say the least: take 14 people and ask them to figure out how Canada can meet its net-zero emissions targets by 2050.

That’s the job of the new Net-Zero Advisory Body, which was established as part of Bill C-12, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. It includes leaders from environmental organizations, the Assembly of First Nations, cleantech, finance, climate science, industry, labour and more.

Some of the people on the body are Dan Wicklum, CEO of the Transition Accelerator; Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada; Assembly of First Nations Yukon regional Chief Kluane Adamek; and Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

According to the Government of Canada website, the group “will provide advice to the government and consult with Canadians on the most efficient and effective ways to reach this goal.”

But not everyone is confident the panel can succeed. That includes Corinne Le Quéré, a Canadian climate scientist and member of the U.K.’s Climate Change Committee, which has played a pivotal role in reducing Great Britain’s emissions by almost half since 1990 and now roughly three per cent a year.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s What on Earth, Le Quéré points out that Canada has repeatedly failed to meet its climate targets, and remains one of the few wealthy countries where emissions continue to rise.

Advisory committees are essential, she argues, because policymakers are so focused on the near term that more distant goals end up on the back burner.

For example, if we want to decarbonize transport by 2030, she said, we need to immediately start producing cars differently, installing infrastructure and planning for the increased electric demand.

The problem is, Canada’s new advisory body doesn’t have those kinds of near-term targets, she said.

“It’s too slow. There are a lot of good mechanisms, but the urgency of the action is just not there,” said La Quéré. What’s more, she said, the panel is too closely tied to the government.

“In order for these committees to have a real voice in society, they need to be far enough from government to not be enmeshed in the day-to-day decisions, but close enough to actually understand what can work in the Canadian policy process.”

Dan Wicklum, co-chair of the Net-Zero Advisory Body, said its objectives are clear and that the transparency of the work they do will mean that Canadians can hold the government to account.

“I think what we do want is to put in place strong, independent, transparent structures that are well resourced to give the best advice possible to the government so that they can make decisions,” he said. “And we feel we’ve got that body in place.”

Andrew Gage, a staff lawyer for the organization West Coast Environmental Law, said he’s pleased with the committee but it doesn’t have the science focus he was hoping for.

“Its expertise seems weighted towards economic considerations and technological innovation,” he wrote in an email to What on Earth.

As a result, the committee will need to commission external studies in order to advise the government on science-based targets, he said.

Simon Donner, the only climate scientist on the panel, said Canada’s struggle to meet its emissions targets demonstrates why this country needs an approach that differs from the model used in the U.K.

“I think if you had a panel of 12 scientists, it wouldn’t be very effective, because that panel doesn’t have any expertise on how you actually make change in the world.”

Le Quéré is calling on the government and Parliament to revisit the law that sparked the advisory panel in order to “strengthen the independence of this committee, give it resources, make sure it’s there for its expertise and inject a sense of urgency in it.”

She said, “Unless you do that, we could wait another 10 years — and Canada’s track record is not very good.”

— Rachel Sanders and Jennifer Van Evra

Stolen from CBC

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