Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is on track to achieve its 2030 climate goal, adding: "We have already seen a bending of the curve of emissions."
His comments came during an interview at a national climate conference hosted by the Canadian Climate Institute and Net-Zero Advisory Body in Ottawa on Oct. 18.
Bloomberg News’ senior climate reporter Akshat Rathi asked Trudeau how greenhouse gas emissions from increased fossil fuel production — as forecasted in Canada’s climate plan — square with the country’s goal to cut emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by the end of the decade.
“If (oil) companies can … reduce their emissions, then there is room within that to increase production,” said Trudeau. “But the goal is any further oil plants or any further energy production is going to have to fit into our emissions reduction plan. That's what we laid out when we approved the latest project, Bay du Nord.”
Canada could technically reach its 2030 climate goal if oil companies slash emissions from the production process. However, more production — no matter how efficient — would lead to more fossil fuels at a time when the head of the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have called for no new fossil fuel projects.
The federal government recently unveiled draft guidelines for approving future oil and gas projects, including a rule that all projects must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Climate advocates panned the so-called “best-in-class” guidelines, pointing out that the industry is “worst-in-class” when it comes to the planet-warming pollution driving climate change.
Rathi pointed out the federal government has had the worst track record on reducing emissions in the G7 since the Paris Agreement was signed.
“Unfortunately, over many decades, different parties … including my own party, put forward … targets around fighting climate change that didn't relate necessarily to concrete plans,” said Trudeau. The difference, now, he says, is there is a plan to reach those targets.
“It's not just politicians talking, it's actual investments, it's actual deliverables,” said Trudeau.
“If (oil) companies can … reduce their emissions, then there is room within that to increase production,” said Trudeau said at @ClimateInstit's #2030inFocus national climate conference. #cdnpoli #ClimateChange
During a “progress report” panel, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault gave some approximate timelines for key climate policies, but climate advocates said the panel, which included Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, was short on progress.
Canadians can expect to see the federal government’s draft zero-emissions vehicle regulations “maybe before Christmas,” and the much-anticipated cap on oil and gas emissions will be announced in “a matter of months,” Guilbeault said at the conference.
“Before, it would take us about five or six years to develop regulations, and now the timeframe that we've imposed upon ourselves is about two years,” Guilbeault said. “We are on a fast track.”
Canada’s climate policy landscape has “absolutely” undergone a revolution in the last six years, Catherine Abreu told Canada’s National Observer after the event. Abreu is the executive director of Destination Zero, an organization focused on building community for a fossil-free future.
“But I think we still heard a lot of the narrative that we can continue to produce oil and gas and expand production while meeting our climate commitments,” Abreu said. “We're still kind of … missing the point, which is that we need to tackle production if we're actually going to reduce those emissions in that sector.”
Julia Levin, national climate program manager at Environmental Defence, said that while the regulatory process for the oil and gas emissions cap will take longer, the government should at least set a 2026 or 2030 target on emissions from the industry before the United Nations climate conference begins next month. A near-term target would send “clear signals” to industry, workers and communities, Levin said.
When asked to identify top priorities within the federal government’s climate plan, Wilkinson pointed to the energy grid, likening it to “the building of the railway in Canada.”
Along with phasing out coal from the country’s power generation, there’s the added complication that “every grid in every province and territory is different, and it's regulated differently,” said Wilkinson. Developing and investing in building up the generating capacity is also key, he noted.
Guilbeault and Wilkinson referenced the need to “future-proof” the carbon price, something discussed in the federal government’s emissions reductions plan to assure investors and companies they can bank on carbon pricing years from now.
Trudeau referenced the challenge of implementing carbon pricing in the face of conservative politicians' resistance to “this straightforward mechanism.”
“The new leader of the Conservative Party is doubling down on … saying that the price on pollution is the wrong way to go,” said Trudeau. “They don't have an alternative. But the fact is, in the last three elections, a majority of Canadians voted for parties that talked about putting a price and keeping a price on pollution. That ship has sailed.”
— With files from Cloe Logan
Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer