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The so-called climate accountability bill was set at such a low bar that it creates “accountability” in name only.

To get the changes needed to make it meaningful will take a miracle. A new world of pressure in 48 hours on Justin Trudeau, Jonathan Wilkinson and Jagmeet Singh to say, “Send back your half-baked loaf.”

I call on the Liberals and the NDP to deliver a bill that meets the demands of science — and our kids.

Since November, the bill has taken a slow, very slow, climb toward passage. Picture an amusement park ride where the thrill-seekers move on a slow, dull ride to a decent height only to suddenly drop to a dizzyingly fast finish. It takes your breath away. Or maybe it just makes you feel sick.

In parliamentary terms, I am describing the tabling of the bill last November, only to have it disappear from the parliamentary calendar until March, only to leave it to the side again until April, and then, after only 12 and a half hours of debate, the Liberals, with NDP support, claimed it was taking too long. Debate was limited — shut down after five more hours.

The reason I am sharing this now is not just that I am mad as hell, but because there is still time.

On Monday, we will vote on amendments to fix the advisory board to an independent science-based group.

We have not yet voted on my amendments, based on testimony from West Coast Environmental Law, to create some real accountability in requiring the government to meet the targets. We could fix the NDP amendment to ensure that the report on progress to an interim 2026 target be tabled in 2026.

The amendment could be good for public relations for the Liberals and the NDP, a watered-down version of a 2025 milestone year. It reads, “The emissions reduction plan for 2030 must include an interim greenhouse gas emissions objective for 2026.”

The reason I am sharing this now is not just that I am mad as hell, but because there is still time to fix Bill C-12, Green Party MP @ElizabethMay writes for @NatObserver. #ClimateLaw #Parliament #FederalGovernment #ClimateChange

But in the scheme of the other proposed amendments, reporting on that 2026 interim target will not take place until 2028. So, curb your enthusiasm.

There are models around the world Canada should be looking to.

Those who study climate law have observed steady improvement in refining such laws. The first, and in many ways still the gold standard, is the U.K. 2008 Climate Accountability Act. It is a big part of the reason that the U.K.’s climate plans are followed, despite elections moving from a Labour to Conservative government. The U.K. is now at 43 per cent below 1990 GHG emissions levels. It recently pledged to get to 78 per cent below 1990 by 2035. In contrast, Canada’s emissions, last verified just before COVID-19, are 21 per cent above 1990 levels. It is often said that Canada has never hit a climate target set by various governments. The truth is, we have never gotten the direction right — emissions rise despite targets for reductions. In fact, we have by far the worst record in the G7.

There are now climate accountability laws, more or less based on the U.K. model, in France, Denmark, New Zealand, Germany, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The best bills share common features — starting with a hard target within five years of the bill passing. As climate accountability laws require verification and targets set every five years, the 2008 U.K. law started with a 2013 target. The climate laws that work also base their five-year targets in carbon budgets, set out as how many tons of carbon can be emitted over the five-year period, and the plans, budgets and progress are set. Another common feature is that the progress be monitored and reported on by an independent, science-based committee.

There are modifications within the laws. For example, the most recent law, the 2020 New Zealand act, includes all the U.K. elements, but adds more detailed carbon budgets and includes specific engagement requirements for Indigenous peoples.

One might have expected Canada to grab the New Zealand approach. Or even the U.K. approach.

But in contrast to laws from climate leaders, Bill C-12 has none of these shared common features. The first “milestone year” for accountability is 2030. The advice on targets, plans and monitoring is from a multi-stakeholder committee advising the minister — not independent, not expert. The targets are not structured as carbon budgets.

This was justified, so the Liberals, NDP and many hopeful environmental groups claimed, because of the imperative to get the bill to committee. It was the committee, all hoped, that would “fix the bill.”

But then the Liberals, with NDP support, shut down the review of the bill.

Instead of the weeks of testimony from concerned Canadians — expected for important legislation — only three meetings were held for a total of seven and a half hours.

The Hon. James Shaw, minister of climate for New Zealand, had agreed to testify.

So had the head of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University Law School. I had hoped Seth Klein would be a witness, plus climate scientists who could explain the imperative of holding to no more than 1.5 C warming. I submitted my list of witnesses. None of them were contacted or called.

No Indigenous witness had a chance to testify. No climate scientists (although some good climate policy and social science witnesses), but not the experts in explaining the perils of positive feedback loops. And no young climate activists — our real leaders.

When the hearing shut down last Thursday at 5 p.m., it was announced all amendments had to be submitted within 24 hours. The horrible reality is that hundreds of written briefs from concerned groups and individuals have been sent to the committee — after the study is over and amendments written.

We moved fast to a “clause by clause” review, with a first session of four hours on May 26. I submitted 37 amendments to committee to strengthen the bill. We are about halfway through, but the backroom deal to push through inadequate legislation is now transparent.

There is a deal between the Liberals and the NDP that gives the NDP some very small “wins” and rejects all Green Party amendments.

So far, Green amendments to insert a 2025 milestone year, to insist on targets “based on the best available science” and to embed the 1.5 C goal in the purpose of the act — are all rejected.

It is so crazy that my amendment to ensure that the next target is set not five, but 10, years ahead — identical to the next motion from the Liberals — was voted down, with only the Bloc Québécois voting for it. Then, to the shock of the Liberals and NDP MPs who wanted the amendment to pass, but not as a Green amendment, the chair informed them (which he had warned before the vote) that defeating my amendment meant that the identical Liberal amendment was also defeated.

That caused quite a kerfuffle, until the NDP changed the Liberal amendment to read, “nine years and 366 days.” Then they could pass it.

The NDP is already crowing about gaining an amendment (set to be heard and passed when we resume committee on Monday).

I call on the government of Canada to accept meaningful amendments. There is time to strengthen the climate accountability act to meet the demands of science and of our children.

Keep reading

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List the Trudeau Govt's top 5 climate measures.
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The Trudeau Govt is engaged in an elaborate charade on climate.
The real plan is to fail.

Correcting Canada’s “one eye shut” climate policy

In Conversation: Ottawa is Continuing Its ‘One Eye Shut’ Climate Policy, Carter and Dordi Say

There's a backroom deal between Liberals and the NDP to push through inadequate climate legislation, a deal that gives the NDP some very small “wins” and rejects all Green Party amendments?

I dunno. Maybe there is. The problem I have is trusting Elizabeth May to say so. This is what happens when you do so many backroom deals yourself (e.g., to smash BDS, to support Annamie Paul, to ruin Dimitri Lascaris) your credibility is wrecked.

As you say, you "dunno". But you take it as an opportunity to air your grievances anyway. Like her or not, Elizabeth May continues to be THE voice to be trusted on climate change. Are you aware of what this government is trying to put over on Canadians in terms of an emissions reduction strategy and climate change action? If not, I suggest you find out. It might just give you some much-needed perspective. Because that is going to affect all our futures.

Science don't vote. Politicians strive to placate people.

George Monbiot was pretty frank in his book, "Heat": any calls to save the world by asking people to restrict their lifestyles are not going to sell. If you're a democracy, you will fail to be elected.

Politicians are professionals at "reading the room" of public opinion. Everybody admired Greta Thunberg's hardass, no-compromise stance, but also, almost nobody actually followed her. Sales of large homes, large SUVs, airline tickets to Aruba, did not fall.

The politicians watch that carefully, and "read the room" that people want action, but not any that greatly inconveniences them or costs them much money.

The real war is for public opinion. Industry and politicians alike will fall into line when people really *feel* the sense of emergency. The positive reactions to Thunberg suggest we're almost ready, are starting to think about it, but we aren't there yet.

Politicians in a number of nations are playing "Chicken" with each other, and nation with nation. They want to hang on to the comfortable ways that support the elites and do not even talk unambiguously, let alone act on the the reality of the situation. This will produce much distress even if we thoroughly address it now, and way more if we don't. Much of the media behaves in a similar manner. Community responsibility is almost absent from most human drives. It is all about the self and immediate family for the short term, and our neoliberal libertarian corporatist culture, so worshipped in English speaking North America and Australia makes matters even worse than in much of the world. Politicians may be particularly ill-suited as leaders at this stage of the game, before their audience significantly experiences and is aware of the causes of impact of a somewhat ameliorable catastrophe. Being often cursed with an exhibitionist streak to their narcissism,
they need instant and continuing attention and approval, and the extremes of a spoilt or comparatively underprivileged and powerless feeling electorate makes for a lazy democracy. We may have already let it slide past the advent of cascading tipping points. Childish one-up-man-ship games for Parliamentary credit just perpetuate delay a lack of timely forceful action. This needs to be punished at the polls.

Yes, politicians know how to "read the room" and usually wait for public outcry before taking action on difficult issues. And yes, it is difficult for most Canadians to give up certain lifestyle habits even though they create significant GHG emissions.

However, we also need politicians to be leaders in times of crisis. If I remember correctly, Seth Klein makes the point that FDR had the courage to lead the US prior to its joining the Allies in WW2 (and during the war). He gave military support to the UK, for example, before the US entered the war, even though there was a strong anti-war sentiment amongst Americans.

We need our leaders to make these tough choices now in the face of the climate emergency. They were willing to do it during the pandemic. WE need them to do it now for the climate crisis, but it doesn't look very hopeful. At least Elizabeth May is willing to speak out.