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Canada’s environment minister says he is reluctant to ask the public service to come up with a plan to achieve an emissions target in 2025, setting up a possible clash with opposition members over the government's climate bill.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he would rather his department work on implementing the initiatives contained in the federal government’s new climate plan that are designed to achieve their objectives by 2030.

Bill C-12, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, would require the federal government to come up with national climate targets for the year 2030 and every five years thereafter, ultimately reaching net-zero carbon pollution by 2050.

Prominent climate scientist Corinne Le Quéré, who chairs France’s High Council on Climate and is a member of the U.K.’s Climate Change Committee, as well as Canadian environmental lawyers and opposition members of Parliament have all called on the government to plan for a 2025 target instead of waiting for 2030, saying climate action can’t be delayed.

NDP environment and climate change critic Laurel Collins, an environment committee member, said she would like to see a 2025 target, arguing that waiting until 2030 was “extremely problematic.” The Green Party has also released a plan that calls for “clear enforceable targets and timelines starting in 2025.”

In comments to Canada’s National Observer following the Powering Past Coal Alliance Global Summit, Wilkinson said he was not ruling out adding 2025 as a target year, and that he was open to “a range of different amendments” to Bill C-12.

But he said he felt the “underlying point of the 2025 request” was a “desire for more accountability” rather than a hard target. Along those lines, he said, he was open to setting new requirements, for example mandating progress reports. And he portrayed Canada’s push to cut emissions as centred around 2030, suggesting this was in line with global efforts.

“What I would say to you is, the whole focus of the Paris Agreement was around 2030. Almost every country around the world has a 2030 target. The focus very much is on the kinds of infrastructure changes that are going to drive the kinds of reductions that we need to see by 2030, like building out electric vehicle infrastructure, like phasing out coal, all of which are around a 2030 timeline,” said Wilkinson.

“And as you know, we just went through a large number of months of enormous work to put together a climate plan that is really focused on 2030 as the ultimate target. I’m not particularly interested in redirecting my civil servants in my department to go around and try to build a plan to 2025 after spending all of that time. I’d rather them work on implementing the initiatives that are going to allow us to make the changes.”

Canada’s environment minister says he is reluctant to ask the public service to come up with a plan to achieve an emissions target in 2025, setting up a possible clash with opposition members over the government's climate bill.

Advisory body 'intent' is to work independently

The government’s $15-billion climate plan unveiled in December 2020, called A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, envisions the federal carbon pricing system reaching $170 per tonne in 2030.

The Liberals claim the plan, which also involves energy retrofits, zero-emission vehicles, carbon capture and natural spaces, will exceed Canada’s Paris Agreement target of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is aiming to announce a new "enhanced" 2030 target for Canada next month when the United States hosts the Leaders’ Climate Summit on April 22.

In an interview, Collins said she was open to working with the government and the other parties to “create some structure” to foster accountability on emissions before the 2030 target. This could be in the form of “assessment reporting and transparent accounting,” she said.

Asking the federal public service to come up with a plan to reach a climate target in 2025, however, was not an overly burdensome task, she argued.

“The idea that this is somehow going to be a ton more work for the government doesn’t actually hold water. There are lots of ways that they could build in real accountability between now and 2030, and make sure that we have robust assessments of our progress,” said Collins.

“I do not understand why, if we are setting a 2030 target, why we could not be transparent about where we expect to be in 2025 — it wouldn’t require more work. Let the public and the House of Commons know the roadmap of how we’re going to get there.”

Other criticism of the bill has focused on whether the minister’s 14-member Net-Zero Advisory Body, which will provide advice on reaching net-zero emissions in 2050, will be sufficiently independent to be able to challenge the government on the effectiveness of its climate action.

The body will draw “logistical, administrative, and policy support” from Environment and Climate Change Canada, according to its terms of reference, and Wilkinson will also be able to check in with members on their work and “refer lines of inquiry” to them. Le Quéré said it was critical that the body have its own budget, and capacity to do its own analysis.

Wilkinson said the advisory body can rely on the independent, publicly funded Canadian Institute for Climate Choices to carry out research for them in addition to pulling from federal government resources.

“The intent is that it will have dedicated resources that are drawn out of the department, but effectively it will have its own secretariat that will support it, and largely it alone,” he said.

“Absolutely, the intent is that they will be working independently. The whole point of this is for them to be able to actually provide advice, and thoughtful independent advice, to myself, but also to future ministers of environment and climate change.”

Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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The 2030 targets that the minister wants to adhere to may coincide with other countries, however a lot has happened since those targets were constructed. Remember, the US election was just a few months ago and there was palpable fear afoot that things could go wrong, as in 2016. The suggestion that the minister doesn’t want to ask his hard-working staff to revise targets to meet the earlier date of 2025 ignores the political changes that matter, particularly in the US.

The Trudeau govt has no intention of meeting climate targets in 2030, 2050, or ever.
Trudeau et al. are faithfully following Big Oil's and Corporate Canada's playbook: delay, delay, delay. Increase fossil fuel production with no end in sight. Expand markets. Bank on business-as-usual emissions scenarios where the world is still burning 100+ million barrels per day decades hence. (The only scenario in which oilsands expansion makes sense.)
Ramp up fossil-fuel subsidies. Extract as much revenue from sunk costs as possible. Grossly under-report oil & gas emissions. Use creative accounting to wipe emissions from the balance sheet. Set aspirational net-zero targets decades out into the future (2050) with no plan to meet them. Don't do the math.
Hinge climate policies on unproven at scale, commercially unviable, or non-existent technologies still on the drawing board: carbon removal from atmosphere, Small Modular Reactors, carbon capture, etc.
Acknowledge the science, but ignore its implications.
Stall, stall, stall.
A plan to fail.

I broadly agree, but there is still this element that makes Liberals different from Conservatives. The Conservatives really don't want anything to be done. The Liberals kind of do, just as long as their funding buddies don't lose any money. Anything they can think of to do, that won't actually cost fossil fuel industries any dough, they'll gladly do . . . they REALLY WISH this constraint didn't doom them to failure.
Liberals are like that about a lot of things. Take long-term care homes. Conservatives want the status quo, and if anything they want to make it impossible to regulate, inspect, or in any way interfere with or even find out about how for-profit care homes go about their holy mission of slowly killing seniors in the name of profit. Liberals absolutely agree there's a problem, wish the best for seniors in care, and while they won't move to a public model, they'll happily regulate, in, um, any way that won't actually reduce profitability.

Which is better? Climate villains who are honest about their intentions — or climate villains who dissemble, prevaricate, and mislead?
Which is worse? Climate sabotage on the right — or betrayal by the "progressive" left? Wolves in sheep's clothing who say one thing and do another

The Liberals and AB NDP have proved far more effective than the Conservatives in delivering on Big Oil's and Corporate Canada's agenda. Trudeau & Co. have persuaded many Canadians that we can both act on climate and double down on fossil fuels. Have our cake and eat it too.
Trudeau and Notley moved the ball on the Trans Mountain pipeline down to the ten-yard line. Their signal achievement was to "push country-wide support for pipelines from 40% to 70%." Something Harper, Scheer, and Kenney could never dream of doing.

This is the same Liberal Govt that declared a climate emergency one day and approved the TMX pipeline expansion the next.
Trudeau: "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."
Under climate leader Trudeau, Canada's GHG emissions in 2018 hit levels not seen in a decade.

Trudeau and Notley did something else Harper and Kenney could never do: lead progressives over the climate cliff. Their acolytes now embrace a climate change denialist position.

Why is it worse when the progressive party fails on climate?
When Harper and Kenney says no to a shift away from fossil fuels, the progressive option is still ON the table.
When Trudeau and Notley say no, they took the progressive option OFF the table.

When Harper and Kenney deny the science, progressives reject their arguments and head in the opposite direction.
When Trudeau and Notley deny the science, progressives accept their arguments and enable their climate sabotage.
With her pipeline hysteria, Notley led progressives astray to support oilsands and pipelines, downplay the science, and ignore IPCC warnings. Something Jason Kenney cannot do.
Trudeau's and Notley's brand of denialism lulls the public into a dangerous complacency and paralysis. "Progressive" denialism is more insidious than the blatant right-wing variety.
Liberal and AB NDP policy eliminate the progressive option and all hope for real climate action.

No, give us climate foes who are honest about their beliefs and intentions, so we can confront them openly in the public square.

Background info:
Up until the last minute, the Trudeau govt was still advertising that Canada's climate plan had room for new export pipelines transporting oilsands bitumen.
Kirsten Hillman, Canada's ambassador to the U.S.: "Keystone XL fits within Canada’s climate plan"

In his book, "The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada", Donald Gutstein details how neoliberal "progressive" politicians like Trudeau and Notley subverted the climate change agenda and enabled Big Oil's "predatory delay":
"The Rise and Fall of Trudeau’s ‘Grand Bargain’ on Climate" (The Tyee, 14 Nov 2018)

"Justin Trudeau’s grand bargain with Big Oil exposed in Donald Gutstein's The Big Stall (The Georgia Straight, Nov 14th, 2018 )

"'The Big Stall' details how neoliberal think tanks blocked action on climate change"

"The Liberal party plays on voters’ desire for far-reaching transformation while guaranteeing the endurance of the status quo. The Liberals effectively act as a kind of shock absorber of discontent and anger towards the elite…
"So on climate, Trudeau was presented as this kind of river-paddling environmental Adonis. He promised that fossil fuel projects wouldn’t go ahead without the permission of communities. But the Liberals create these public spectacles of their bold progressiveness while they quietly assure the corporate elite that their interests will be safeguarded. So at the same time Trudeau was going around the country and convincing people that he was this great climate hope, the Liberal party had for years been assuring big oil & gas interests that there would not be any fundamental change to the status quo.
"As early as 2013, Trudeau was telling the Calgary Petroleum Club that he differed with Harper not so much about the necessity of exporting huge amounts of tarsands internationally, but because he didn’t think Harper’s approach — which stoked divisions and an incredible amount of resistance that turned Canada into a climate pariah — was the most effective marketing approach.
"The Liberal climate plan essentially is a reworking of the business plan of Big Oil and the broader corporate lobby. …The plan is to support a carbon tax and to effectively make it a cover for expanded tarsands production and pipelines. That was a plan hatched by the Business Council of Canada back in 2006, 2007. For 20 years oil companies had resisted any kind of regulation or any kind of carbon tax and fought it seriously. But they started to realize that it would be a kind of concession that they would have to make in order to assure stability and their bottom line not being harmed. The climate bargain that Trudeau went on to strike with Alberta of a carbon tax plus expanded tarsands production was precisely the deal that Big Oil had wanted."
"How Trudeau’s Broken Promises Fuel the Growth of Canada’s Right"

The USA has a 2025 Paris Target ... but Canada can't? The UK has legally-binding targets covering every year. When they started setting them back in 2008 they included that very year, 2008, and the next dozen years right away. Surprise, the UK cut their emissions nearly a third since then while Canada's emissions have gone up. Canada needs targets starting this year, 2021, and covering all years through 2030 at least. And Ottawa needs to make itself legally-bound to meet them, like the UK does, if we want to start doing our required part in preventing a full-blown climate breakdown.

Well, I have to agree that the big two political parties are full of nay-sayers and forked tongues. They are also unbelievably lazy. Is governance in Canada supposed to be a genteel occupation for gentlemen of leisure?

One would think so from the fact that both Trudeau and O'Tool practice charming smiles during their photo ops while doing less than nothing to address the world's problems, inequities, and slide into lawless political malfeasance.

With the honourable exception of one or two individual cabinet ministers, federal governments over the past 30 years* have spent far more time kicking the climate change can down the road than actually implementing effective policies at encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency and reducing GHG emissions. And we're now running out of road.

* Brian Mulroney at the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: “I leave this conference believing we have a better chance of saving the world than we had when we came here.”

Geofery Pounder would rather go head to head with a majority Conservative government that ignores his very existence rather than deal with a Liberal government that at least acknowledges his fleabites and is actively searching for the least disruptive way to scratch the itch? Really?