Canada is far behind many other countries when it comes to meeting its carbon reduction targets. We have an “inadequate” ranking on the international mechanism tracking carbon emitters, says Climate Action Tracker. Many other countries/regions, such as Norway, the European Union, the United States and China, are well ahead of us.

Meanwhile, the federal government recently announced that all Canadian jurisdictions must adopt a carbon pricing scheme by 2018 with a minimum price of $10 per tonne. The price must rise to reach $50 per tonne by 2022. The Liberals have maintained the Harper government's goal of reducing emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, an objective that will not get Canada anywhere close to its broader promises at the United Nations to avoid warming of more than two degrees Celsius.

The Canadian targets are “nothing short of a disaster for the climate,” says Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Canadians probably believe that our major environmental groups are busy lobbying and pushing the federal and provincial governments to do much more. But no, this is not the case.

Strangely, while many organizations carry out excellent climate change campaigns, the country’s environmental community is doing very little directly to pressure governments to do a better job.

A survey of the top 20 or so environmental organizations shows — from what I could find — that not one group has criticized the federal government for not doing more.

Just about every major environmental group is content with the government’s weak targets — even though the outcome will mean a great deal of damage for the country.

Greenpeace’s Keith Stewart did say that “thirty per cent by 2030 isn’t good enough. We have to go farther.” But it does not seem that the organization will be lobbying governments re carbon levels.

The David Suzuki Foundation applauded the Trudeau government for creating a national climate action plan. However, the foundation has criticized the government's targets, asking it to do more.

Environmental Defence has said the government’s action was a step forward, but added that there are real issues. The organization's National Program Manager Dale Marshall wrote: “The long delay before the carbon price reaches levels that can take a real bite out of Canada’s emissions puts Canada’s international commitments — no matter how weak — in jeopardy.”

The Climate Action Network (CAN) is made up of a wide collection of about 100 environmental and public interest groups. It chose to endorse the mediocre goals set by the government.

“… Prime Minister Trudeau showed conviction when it comes to putting a price on carbon across Canada,” said Catherine Abreu, CAN Executive Director.

CAN believes it can accomplish more working within the system as opposed to criticizing the government from the outside. Network leaders make much of the fact that CAN was one of the groups the government consulted during the process of setting the carbon reduction targets. However, with the government adopting the lowest possible target, CAN apparently didn’t have much influence during the process.

If anything, the government co-opted CAN to accept its positions.

CAN leaders believe they have an edge in influencing the federal government because three former environmental leaders hold key positions in the government.

  • Gerald Butts, formerly president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, is Senior Political Advisor to Prime Minister Trudeau. He has held key positions with the Ontario Liberals.
  • Marlo Raynolds, formerly with BluEarth Renewables and the Pembina Institute, is Chief of Staff for Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna. He was an unsuccessful Liberal candidate in the last federal election.
  • John Brodhead is Chief of Staff with Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi. Formerly he was Executive Director at Evergreen CityWorks, a national environmental charity that focuses on green urban planning and infrastructure policy. He too had previously worked for the Ontario Liberals.

It’s questionable whether the three long-time Liberals will influence climate change policy in any meaningful way. The three men are there to serve the interests of the government and, having worked in Liberal politics before, they know it. Their main job is to keep things moving smoothly for the government and helping the government get re-elected.

Naturally, from the point of view of a government leader, Justin Trudeau is more interested in creating his vision of a healthy economy instead of carrying out a full attack on climate change.

However, environmental groups should not be more concerned about the government’s economic issues than climate policy. If groups staged a massive campaign aimed at solving climate problems, perhaps the government could be convinced to move some of the billions it plans to spend on infrastructure over to climate change.

The government may be pleased that it’s not being criticized by the environmental community. However, if the government wants to make progress on the climate change file they need to be lobbied strongly by climate groups to help keep the powerful fossil fuel industry at bay.

Elizabeth May recently told a small group of environmental lobbyists that she is disappointed by the lack of aggressive action from the community on the targets that have been set.

In terms of what groups should be lobbying for, May set out a number of suggestions, including ending federal fossil fuel subsidies, creating a robust climate adaptation strategy coordinated by a dedicated federal agency, and the provision of more green venture capital funds to take great and proven ideas and move them to commercialization.

Of course, it’s not too late for the environmental community to change its ways. But it needs to undergo a tremendous amount of self-evaluation. Concerning climate change, it lacks focus and organization. Groups need to end their isolation and begin cooperating with each other. The total income of the community is in the range of $225-million annually. Imagine what could be accomplished if 10 per cent of this amount were used to create a carbon reduction campaigning program.

Nick Fillmore is a Toronto freelance journalist and a frequent contributor to the National Observer. You can find his blog at:

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct that the David Suzuki Foundation has also called on the government to do more to fight climate change.

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Interesting, this very issue was part of my conversation with Mr. De Souza in September. I was critical of the publication for continually supplementing articles with quotes from the Pembina Institute and Environmental Defence, which, in my opinion, are simply controlled opposition.

Take Pembina for instance, a good portion of their funding comes from the oil and gas industry, either through consulting or speaking fees. The sponsors for Pembina's recent Climate Summit included numerous oil and gas producers ( and their most prominent project to date in Alberta, is writing and distributing the Landowners Guide to Oil and Gas Development. They are the "clean energy think tank", that runs on dirty energies money.

Mike Hudema with Greenpeace Alberta blocked me on social media, when I questioned the service provider they were endorsing for their Solar4All project, called ACE, a supposed solar co-op that when researched, deals largely in fracced gas. Hudema has supported the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan which refers to fracced gas as "clean" with "limited adverse impacts".

When you take a critical lens to our environmental organizations, you can easily deduce the reasoning why they are not critical of weak climate policies and poor operating practices that fail to reduce GHG's; industry or special interest funding for their operations. In short, there are few, if any, ethical environmental organizations in Canada, particularly Alberta. Review the Board of Directors of nearly any organization and you will find a myriad of strategic corporate placements, the usual suspects, oil and gas, forestry and mining. Their campaigns are a veneer of environmentalism, meant to appeal and appease the masses and garner donations, but rarely have any substance, so as to not offend or obstruct their industrial or special interest sponsors and donators.

I fail to see how self reflection will fix this collusion and deceit. The problem of ineffective environmental organizations can be solved when citizens, media and businesses come to appreciate the duplicity and stop supporting, donating or giving audience to these organizations.