Climate experts and the federal Green Party say Canada’s new commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is severely lacking.
Canada’s new greenhouse gas reduction target under the Paris Agreement is now “40 to 45 per cent” below 2005 levels by 2030, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on April 22 at the Leaders Summit on Climate.
This target falls short of U.S. President Joe Biden’s commitment to a 50 to 52 per cent reduction by 2030.
“We see this as a global announcement on the part of the government of Canada that Canada is not seeking at this time to be a leader in the fight against the climate crisis,” said the leader of Canada’s federal Green Party, Annamie Paul.
“Even with the full weight of pressure from the Biden administration to do the right thing, the best we could get was 40 to 45 per cent?” said Green MP Elizabeth May. “That is pathetic. It's a disgrace.
“The new target does not align with what Biden's climate summit was all about,” said May. “It does not align with holding to no more than 1.5 degrees (C warming).”
Pulling its weight
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The Green Party and several climate think tanks have been pushing for a target that reflects Canada’s fair share in tackling the climate emergency, which would mean a 60 per cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030.
To date, Canada hasn’t met a single climate target, and climate experts are doubtful this one will be any different.
The Green Party crunched the numbers to prove a 60 per cent reduction is possible, but it requires Canada to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and building new fossil fuel infrastructure.
“It's not possible for Canada to meet even the modest, unambitious targets that we set last week if we continue to do some of the things that the government of Canada is committed to continuing to do,” said Paul.
As it stands, Canada is both a top 10 emitter of greenhouse gases and emits more than double the global average per person, according to the World Resources Institute. Environment Canada reports one quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the oil and gas sector.
With this new commitment, the government is passing up on the chance to do our fair share to leave the planet habitable, said May. “We're also putting Canada in a very uncompetitive position to take advantage of the economy of the future.”
Investing in a green recovery is not only essential to our survival, but a massive economic opportunity, said Paul, calling it the greatest economic opportunity since the Industrial Revolution.
But Canadians who want to transition to a green economy will have to look elsewhere, she said.
Despite setting more ambitious climate goals, the federal government continues to prop up the fossil fuel industry. The Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) predicts oil production will peak in 2045, “driven by higher crude oil price assumptions and a lack of future domestic and global climate policy action.”
“The federal government is projecting an enormous expansion of tar sands production over the next 10 years, which is inconsistent with Canada's climate goals,” said Anthony Swift, director of Canada Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“A climate-safe future is not one where either country has an expanding oil industry,” he said.
Government committed to fossil fuels
May and Paul agree Trudeau’s desire to protect the oilsands and be a climate leader are incompatible positions.
Paul said Canada won’t be able to meet the unambitious targets set on April 22 if the government continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry, build pipelines, and approve oil exploration projects — like it did in January when approval was granted to three oil projects off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“There’s no credible, realistic strategy for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions that doesn't involve significant changes and reductions in our oil and gas sector in the time that we have,” said Paul.
The government’s commitment to fossil fuels doesn’t surprise Bronwen Tucker, an analyst at Oil Change International, which advocates for energy transition.
“This is super common, and it’s a pattern we’ve seen for years already, where the Trudeau government loves to have rhetoric of climate leadership but has ignored the fastest-growing source of emissions and is continuing to do that,” said Tucker. “Until we are addressing that and also ensuring a transition for the workers and communities who are relying on that sector, it is really just a smoke and mirrors situation.”
Some groups are more optimistic about the new targets.
Michael Bernstein, executive director of Clean Prosperity, a Canadian climate policy organization, said the targets are a really positive step and balance the need to keep up with Canada’s international peers while acknowledging it will be harder to make emissions reductions quickly because of the country’s prominent oil and gas sector.
Bernstein stresses the need for a carbon budget, as well as reduction targets. A carbon budget refers to the total future emissions that can be emitted in a given region while still limiting global warming to a target, such as 1.5 C.
He also notes that decarbonizing the oil and gas industry will require large investments and time.
But May says the time to act is now.
“I'm afraid that when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells you that there is no way to hold on to 1.5 (C) without essentially slashing emissions in half between now and 2030, don't fool around with pretending we've got more time than we have,” said May. “We don't have any time at all.”
The Conservative Party of Canada did not return the National Observer’s phone calls and emails requesting an interview or statement on Canada’s new climate commitments.
Trudeau's climate plan is a
Trudeau's climate plan is a plan to fail. A disingenuous hodge-podge of half-measures and contradiction. An anti-science plan predicated on reckless fossil fuel expansion.
A plan reliant on costly, inefficient, unviable, unproven, or non-existent technologies like carbon capture, carbon removal, and SMRs.
A plan dishonestly resorting to creative accounting and gross under-reporting of oil & gas emissions.
Canada's political elites, the oil industry, the Big Banks, and Corporate Canada are all banking 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.
Trudeau is following Big Oil's playbook: delay, delay, delay. Increase fossil fuel production. Expand markets. Ramp up fossil-fuel subsidies. Divert public money to fossil fuel companies. Extract as much revenue from sunk costs as possible. Grossly under-report oil & gas emissions. Use creative accounting to erase emissions from the balance sheet. Set aspirational net-zero targets decades out into the future (2050) with no roadmap to meet them.
A plan to fail.
In his book, "The Big Stall:
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"
"Justin Trudeau’s grand bargain with Big Oil exposed in Donald Gutstein's The Big Stall"
"'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."
"The Conservative Party of
"The Conservative Party of Canada did not return the National Observer’s phone calls and emails requesting an interview or statement on Canada’s new climate commitments." Did you request an interview or statement from the NDP?
April 28th 2021
The tar sands in Alberta have
The tar sands in Alberta have been subsidized by the federal government from its very inception. Bitumen is so expensive to process no private corporation in their right mind would put their money into, yet here we are in Canada. Stop the subsidies and the industry would die. Do all those oil workers in Fort McMurray know the government has been paying their salaries?
Take those tar sand subsidies and put them into renewable energy development and industries. This is not rocket science but it does take courage, of which the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc and NDP have very little.