Canada has just one month left to submit our updated Paris Agreement pledge to limit global warming to 1.5 C. Originally scheduled for last fall, COP26 is now back on the calendar for November, and countries’ pledges, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), will be key to the global climate summit’s success. With the deadline looming, many questions about Canada’s NDC remain unanswered.

Here’s what we know so far: Canada has released a new emissions reduction target, presented a new domestic climate plan, and is adopting its first climate governance legislation to hold the government accountable for cutting emissions.

What we don’t yet know: Will Canada show the leadership needed to tackle the climate crisis with a robust, effective NDC? The U.S., the U.K. and Germany are stepping up, but Canada has a long history of broken climate promises.

All eyes are now on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to deliver an NDC that is more than a number and fills in key policy gaps.

At home and abroad, our leaders will be judged on whether Canada’s NDC connects domestic policy with international responsibilities.

Today, Climate Action Network - Réseau Action Climat, Canada’s farthest-reaching network of organizations working on climate change and energy issues, released A People's Plan: Benchmarks for Evaluating Canada’s International Climate Commitments Ahead of 2021 Summit.

The report, endorsed by 32 organizations that represent the concerns of millions of Canadians, sets out seven critical benchmarks that Canada's NDC must meet.

  1. Equity. Canada is among the top 10 global net emitters — both currently and cumulatively over time. Based on our GDP, Canada’s fair share to limit global warming to 1.5 C requires domestic emission cuts from 2005 levels by at least 60 per cent by 2030. We must also dedicate international climate finance to support further reductions beyond our borders equivalent to 80 per cent from Canada’s 2005 levels. At the G7, Trudeau announced a doubling of Canada’s climate finance contribution. It’s a welcome step, but much more is required to deliver our fair share.
  2. Upholding human rights, including the rights of Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples are climate leaders and on the front lines of climate impacts, yet colonial policies exclude them from the decision-making table. The climate crisis is also a crisis of children’s rights, in particular Indigenous children, whose chance for a livable planet is under threat. Canada’s NDC must centre the voices, needs, and leadership of Indigenous peoples and detail how we will protect children’s rights.
  3. Rapid decarbonization. The science is clear: We need ambitious policies to accelerate the decarbonization of every part of our economy this decade. The NDC should include plans for consistent, rigorous carbon pricing and for ending expansion and managing a decline of the fossil fuel industry — Canada’s largest and most rapidly growing source of emissions. Climate accountability legislation is winding its way through Parliament, but the most important work will occur in implementation. A detailed NDC will set the bar high for future climate plans.
  4. Shifting financial flows. Last month, the International Energy Agency declared oil and gas expansion to be incompatible with a 1.5 C pathway. Yet Canada continues to fuel the problem through fossil fuel subsidies, which rose 200 per cent in 2020. With recovery spending, Canada can close the investment gap between current climate funding and what’s needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Our NDC must identify how recovery spending will phase out support for fossil fuels and align future spending with 1.5 C.
  5. Increasing resilience, interconnectedness with nature, and social and health co-benefits. The natural world faces multiple threats, while increasing natural disasters and air pollution bring heavy health and financial costs. Canada’s NDC must commit to conserve, protect, and restore nature, and include policies to increase adaptation capacity over the next decade.
  6. Just transition. Decarbonizing the economy will have dramatic impacts for workers dependent on high-emissions sectors. Canada is still waiting on a Just Transition Act, promised by the Liberals in the 2019 election campaign. Canada’s NDC policies must focus on workers and communities and ensure economic protection, particularly for racialized workers, women and Indigenous peoples.
  7. Whole-of-country co-operation. The federal government must detail how it will work with every Indigenous community, city, region, province, and territory to tackle the climate crisis as it implements the NDC.

Five years ago in Paris, the world committed to fighting catastrophic levels of global warming. But this watershed moment was only the beginning.

Canada’s plan for reducing carbon emissions must also centre the voices, needs, and leadership of Indigenous peoples and detail how we will protect children’s rights, write @catabreu_ & @Eddypc. #NDC #COP26

Our actions this decade will determine the future of humankind. The pledges and plans in this NDC cycle will either bring us closer to a tipping point of climate catastrophe, or move us towards healing, recovery, and a more just future.

The clock is ticking. It’s time for Canada to step up.

Catherine Abreu is an internationally recognized, award-winning campaigner whose work centres on building powerful coalitions to advance transformative action on climate change. Abreu is the executive director of Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat (CAN-Rac) Canada, a coalition of 130 organizations operating from coast to coast to coast. One of the world’s 100 most influential people in climate policy as named by Apolitical in 2019, she has over 15 years of experience campaigning on environmental issues, including seven years in the heart of the global climate movement.

Eddy Pérez is the international climate diplomacy manager at Climate Action Network Canada. Pérez is an expert on climate diplomacy, analyzing and monitoring international climate negotiations from a Canadian and North American perspective. Pérez has worked in Geneva with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and as a Climate Action Network International consultant. He is a lecturer at the University of Montreal and teaches climate justice and international co-operation. Pérez also chairs the G7 Climate and Energy WG within the G7 Global Taskforce.

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