Facing tough questions from Bloomberg News climate reporter Akshat Rathi this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked if Canada will meet its ambitious climate targets of 40 to 45 per cent emissions reductions (from 2005 levels) by 2030. The PM’s answer was an emphatic “Yes!”

The context for the question is Canada’s propensity to sign international agreements that contain targets and then miss the targets. This is not unique to climate change agreements, nor to Liberal governments, (and not unique to Canada, either). However, Canada does have a particularly poor track record in meeting climate targets, and Liberal governments in Canada tend to wear the “missing targets” badge more than others (especially during the Chrétien years when the Kyoto Agreement was signed with no plan and virtually no climate policies implemented during the 10 years of that government).

As a result, Canada stands out among G7 nations as the worst performer in terms of greenhouse gas reductions over the past several decades. Canada’s emissions are up by over 20 per cent, whereas the Europeans’ are collectively down by over 20 per cent, the United States has levelled off, and the U.K. has seen a remarkable 43 per cent decline. Nobody, it’s worth pointing out, has met their targets.

There are three very important factors to help understand Canada’s track record and the confidence of the PM going forward, a context which seemed unfamiliar to Rathi.

The first point was answered clearly by the PM when he said, "Any politician can put forward a target. But can you actually put forward a plan to do it?" In this, Trudeau was making reference both to past governments that had targets absent of plans and to the fact the Trudeau government has implemented more policies and produced a more coherent plan than any federal government before it.

For example, carbon pricing continues to be a federal climate policy cornerstone and Canada is one of the few countries in the world to successfully implement a national carbon tax. This is much more than a target or a plan, it is an established market-based policy seen by businesses, the oil and gas sector and economists as the most cost-effective way to curb carbon emissions.

Moreover, earlier this year, the federal government released its Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP), the first national climate plan with a clear focus on specific sectors of the economy. Both the carbon price and the ERP were hard-fought breakthroughs for the Liberal government and were opposed by the Conservative Party of Canada — which takes us to point number 2.

The context in Canada is NOT a widely supportive political environment calling for more action on climate change with the Liberals dragging their feet — quite the opposite. For every gain made by governments in Canada to address climate change, there are indefatigable calls from the Conservative Party and certain business interests to repeal those actions, slow them down or delay and distract. The Liberals are pushing ahead with persistence in a hostile environment characterized by vociferous critics who either have no climate plans at all, or at the other end of the spectrum, by activists calling for an immediate curtailment of oil production. The painful job of realpolitik climate sausage-making is not for those with weak stomachs or simple minds.

The third context point is twofold and helps to explain the two sides to Canada’s emissions and missed targets. The main culprits in Canada’s rising greenhouse gas emissions are oil and gas production and refining, and most of that oil and gas feeds American energy demand. Over 4.5 billion barrels per day of Canadian oil are sent to the U.S., and 99 per cent of U.S. natural gas imports are from Canada.

In this sense, the Americans have exported a large chunk of their emissions problem to Canada, since we are producing oil and gas to meet their voracious demand, and if not Canada, countries further afield would fill that demand. Similarly, the Europeans rely on oil and gas from Russia and the Middle East to fill the gap left by domestic coal reductions, moving their production emissions offshore as well.

Canada does have a particularly poor track record in meeting climate targets, and Liberal governments in Canada tend to wear the “missing targets” badge more than others, writes @brucelourie. #cdnpoli #NetZero #EnergyTransition #CleanEnergy

Large oil and gas export nations, therefore, have a much more difficult time meeting climate targets due to the emissions from export-related production. Add to that the fact those production emission increases in Canada are swapped for emission reductions in the U.S., given that most of the natural gas we export to America is used to power natural gas electricity plants that replaced coal-fired electricity. We get stuck with the greenhouse gas emissions increase, while Americans take credit for the emissions reductions from the cleaner-burning gas.

This explains the second part, where the “successful” climate countries are seeing their largest emissions reductions. Americans and Britons have achieved the majority of their emission reductions by reducing coal-fired electricity generation, which relied on domestic coal mining, and they replaced much of that electricity production with imported natural gas. The war in Ukraine has, of course, made energy security and the reliance on foreign fossil fuels mainstream ideas.

Coal is only a small part of Canada’s electricity mix and Ontario was perhaps the first jurisdiction in the world to achieve a complete phaseout of coal-fired electricity — leadership the rest of the world seems oblivious to. And with one of the cleanest (and cheapest) low-carbon electricity systems in the world, it makes it difficult to get the easy and inexpensive greenhouse gas wins seen in the coal-dominated regions of Europe and the U.S. This explains the other half of why Canada has a tough job — coal is a minor and dwindling part of our electricity supply, so the easy wins are harder to come by, thanks to Ontario’s early actions.

One can quibble over whether the current government has been moving at the pace of the problem, in that much of the Liberal “plan” has yet to be implemented (and on top of that, there is a lag time between policy implementation and emission reductions). Therefore, it will take time to see the direct effects of the Liberal climate plan, and this delay will continue to plague the government and provide easy fodder to critics of climate policy, as well as climate activists demanding more action.

The interview with the PM took place at an international gathering of climate experts, scientists, industry, and governments convened by the Canadian Climate Institute and the Net-Zero Advisory Body (NZAB), Canada’s two formal climate research and advisory organizations.

The event opened with international counterparts from Australia, the U.K., and France extolling the virtues of evidence-based research in support of robust and cost-effective climate policy. There is much to be shared with respect to best practices, not only in terms of successful climate policy development, but in navigating the complex (and similar) politics of extremism undermining sound democratic processes around the world.

Following the interview with the PM, Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson took the stage with NZAB co-chair Marie-Pierre Ippersiel, where they elaborated on the government’s climate plans and upcoming policies.

More stringent methane regulations, a zero-emissions vehicle mandate, a clean electricity standard, and an oil and gas sector emissions cap are among the policies in the works and expected to roll out of Ottawa over the weeks and months ahead. Along with carbon pricing, these policies, and the overarching ERP, will put Canada on par with any nation in terms of having the most comprehensive and stringent national climate policies on the planet.

Guilbeault hinted at a new federal mechanism to support carbon pricing called “contracts for differences.” These are contracts designed to provide price certainty to low-carbon energy producers to mitigate the risk of fluctuating energy prices or flip-flopping carbon price policies. Energy producers and financiers receive the long-term certainty they so often call for and this will accelerate renewable energy projects in Canada.

How quickly it all translates into emission reductions will depend in large part on the implementation details, as well as the willingness of provinces to support climate policies (versus threats to go to court), active participation of businesses, and an engaged public.

Doubling or tripling our electricity system to meet the growing demand from electrification of end-use energy is the one area Wilkinson admitted was an ongoing challenge, describing the efforts to build out an expanded modern electricity system this way: "It is going to need to be of a much more significant scale for us to move forward."

This will be a critical next piece of Canada’s plan, and one where provincial co-operation, Indigenous participation, and involvement of organized labour and business will be essential. Without it, many of the other elements of Canada’s climate plan will be difficult to achieve, putting those pesky targets at risk.

Bruce Lourie is president of the Ivey Foundation and co-author with Rick Smith of Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health.

Keep reading

Interesting defense of Liberal policy. Yes, baby steps are better than no steps, but they're not going to get the job done. The author touches on the real issue facing Canada. The vast majority of our oil & gas is exported to the USA - We don't need it for domestic consumption (or jobs, as renewables, if funded/promoted properly, offer more opportunities). The challenge for our governments is to wean the US off Canadian fossil fuels asap so we can wind down production. This is where the pressure should be applied. This is where a transparent discussion should be occurring!

Wean the US off our gas? That's what Biden's IRA is attempting to address but because of the profound irrationality of that pervasive right-wing extremism referred to in the article that we also face in Canada (and is a world-wide threat), Biden may still lose the midterms to them. Who knew that quite so many people were so stupid, so totally nuts and so completely irrational, but since there are apparently huge swathes of them in the population thanks to social media who are also newly active politically, we are forced to deal with the basic attendant insanity. No small feat; it's like handling a mob or a cult, or a trucker freedumb convoy. What we now also know is that the central most effective part of current conservative strategy is based on being agents of serial chaos. Trump led the way. We now all see, crystal clear, JUST how easy it is to blatantly lie to and manipulate people via their emotions. The fact that the algorithms are "hand-held" has only increased their powers to personally inflame and/or persuade.
Trudeau didn't connect the dots on the irreplaceable importance of our trade with Americans in the complex context that Liberals are juggling, but he should have. At least him and Guilbeault and Wilkinson all reiterated the obstructionism of the cons, something they have been skirting for years, just how utterly intractable and deeply dangreous these people are. Conservatives COULD kill us all.
And the whole reality of transitioning from coal to natural gas being low-hanging fruit for emissions reduction explains much around Europe's superior success. Even in uber-conservative "Alberduh" we're getting off of it.
The article mentions Ontario being the first in Canada to leap forward on greener energy but not the steep political price they paid to be true leaders. Avi Lewis' audacious "Leap Manifesto" was rejected by the supposedly green federal NDP despite it being what was actually needed, and this latest debacle in B.C. around a candidate who is also as truly green as what's actually needed reflects the same thing happening again. Still. Even in the face of what's happening in B.C. in particular because of climate change. Sigh.

Lourie: "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked if Canada will meet its ambitious climate targets of 40 to 45 per cent emissions reductions (from 2005 levels) by 2030. The PM’s answer was an emphatic 'Yes!'"

The federal environment commissioner's answer was an emphatic "No!".
"Federal watchdog warns Canada's 2030 emissions target may not be achievable" (CBC, Apr 26, 2022)

Liberal duplicity on climate will not get us anywhere near our inadequate targets.
Canadians are absolutely correct to reject the Liberals' (i.e., Corporate Canada's) climate swindle.

As numerous climate experts and pundits attest, Liberal (i.e., Corporate Canada's) climate policy is both profoundly deficient and hopelessly disingenuous:

"Cracks appear in Liberal-NDP alliance as Singh condemns Ottawa's climate 'failure'" (CBC, Apr 27, 2022)
"Speaking to reporters after the federal environment commissioner released 5 reports critical of the govt's climate policy, Singh said he's deeply concerned about the Liberals' approach to the environment, adding there seems to be a disconnect between rhetoric and reality.
"'The Liberal govt is a failure on the environment,' Singh said.
"'The environment commissioner was scathing, and we believe him. It's not a surprise. Under the Liberals, every single target that's been set has failed to be met. They're not taking this seriously.'
"In response, Singh said the govt's emissions plan is 'a complete mess.'"
Climate activists should not assume that the federal government is sincere about climate action, the energy shift, and a just transition for workers. The Environment Commissioner's recent audits tell a different story:

Greta Thunberg: "You are failing us but young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you and if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you."
"You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am I do not want to believe that because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe." (2019)

UN Secretary General António Guterres (April 2022): "[The latest IPCC report] is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world." (2022)
"Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another."
"Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic."
"But high-emitting governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye; they are adding fuel to the flames."
"Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness."

Lourie: "Trudeau was making reference both to past governments that had targets absent of plans and to the fact the Trudeau government has implemented more policies and produced a more coherent plan than any federal government before it."

Which is to say nothing at all.
Trudeau has not only claimed the laurels of climate leadership, but also set the bar far higher for his government. His failure will be even more egregious.

Trudeau's govt declared a climate emergency on Jun. 17, 2019. Just 24 hours later, the Liberals re-approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX).
Coherent plan?

Trudeau's (i.e., Corporate Canada's) climate plan is to double down on fossil fuels. The Liberals' transition starts off in the wrong direction.
When do we start going in the right direction? Name the date.

Trudeau (2016): "There is growth to be had in the oilsands. They will be developing more fossil fuels while there's a market for it, while we transition off fossil fuels."
Trudeau (2016): "Our challenge is to use today's wealth to create tomorrow's opportunity."
Trudeau (2017): "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."

Then-Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr: "Our plan is to use this time of transition to Canada's advantage by building the infrastructure to get our resources to global markets and using the revenues to invest in clean forms of energy." (2018)

When the IPCC issued its latest report, then-Environment Minister "Wilkinson reaffirmed Canada's commitment to phasing out fossil fuels and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but said achieving that target will require money generated by fossil fuels."
"Ottawa says it must maximize revenue from the Trans Mountain pipeline to fight climate change" (CBC, 2021)

How is that coherent climate policy?

Up until the last minute before Pres. Biden cancelled Keystone XL, 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"
https://www.nationalobserver.com/2021/01/17/news/transition-biden-order-...

"Feds approve offshore oil project days after IPCC begged world to say no to oil and gas" (National Observer, April 6th 2022)
https://www.nationalobserver.com/2022/04/06/news/feds-approve-offshore-o...

Canada's federal and provincial govts shield large emitters from significant carbon costs. The federal backstop Output-Based Pricing System (OBPS) for large industrial emitters does not apply to large emitters in Alberta. Under Alberta's Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Regulation (TIER), O&G companies pay pennies on the dollar in carbon costs.
Large industrial emitters, including in AB's oilsands, effectively pay a fraction of consumer rates.
The purpose of the OBPS and its provincial counterparts is not to expose heavy emitters to the carbon price, but to shield them from it. Federal and provincial carbon pricing systems do not impair their profits — or reduce their emissions.
"Biggest industrial emitters don't pay fair share for pollution, critics say" (National Observer, April 14th 2022)
https://www.nationalobserver.com/2022/04/14/news/biggest-industrial-emit...

The Liberals continue to provide far more support (subsidies) to fossil fuels than to renewables.
Fossil-fuel subsidies undermine carbon pricing, making it cheaper and more profitable to produce fossil fuels instead of more expensive.
"Canada leads G20 in financing fossil fuels, lags in renewables funding, report says" (CP, Oct 28, 2021)
https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/oil-change-subsidies-1.6228679

Coherent plan?

Lourie: "the federal government released its Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP)"

With no realistic policies in place for the O&G industry to meet its targets.
The Liberals' climate plan for the oilsands rests on three taxpayer-funded white elephants that are neither fit for purpose nor ready to go: Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), blue hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage (CCS). A lifeline for the fossil-fuel industry with scant prospect for significant emissions reductions.

CCS means fossil fuels for longer. More emissions, not less. A plan to "green" fossil fuels, not get off them. CCS keeps us dependent on fossil fuels — not a transformative solution.

Canada's O&G industry grossly under-reports its emissions of all types. The industry's GHG emission stats are fiction. I.e., Canada's actual emissions are far higher than the government's tally.
You can't manage what you don't measure. That seems to be the intention.

Lourie: "…the Americans have exported a large chunk of their emissions problem to Canada, since we are producing oil and gas to meet their voracious demand"

That game goes both ways.
If you attribute AB's oil industry emissions to the provinces and states where the fuel is consumed, Albertans and Canadians must also accept responsibility for emissions embedded in goods we import.
Including, for example, all the emissions embedded in goods manufactured in and imported from China. In recent decades, the West outsourced much of its manufacturing and emissions to China and other developing nations.
80% of fossil fuel emissions occur at the combustion end. E.g., in Chinese power plants and factories churning out goods for Canadian consumers.

Canada must also assume the emissions on its crude oil imports. In 2020, c 40% of Canada’s refinery needs were met by imports. (NRCan)
● Canada exported 79% of its crude oil production to the USA. (2020)
- Imports from the USA = 25% of Canada's crude oil consumption.
● Canada exported 42% of its natural gas production to the USA. (2020)
- Imports from the USA = 20% of Canada's natural gas consumption.

Lourie: "The context in Canada is NOT a widely supportive political environment calling for more action on climate change with the Liberals dragging their feet"

Where have we heard this argument before?
It's bad enough to read disingenuous apologies for the Liberal plan to fail on climate from Liberal partisans in the comments section. Now Mr. Lourie serves up an entire column of Liberal climate rubbish. I hope they pay him well.

Trudeau himself put paid to this deflection:
"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.”
In recent elections, a majority of Canadian voters have voted for parties other than Conservative. In 2015, Trudeau handily won a majority government with a strong mandate from voters on climate action.

Petro-progressives like Trudeau, Notley, and Horgan claim to accept the climate change science, but still push pipelines, approve LNG projects, promote oilsands expansion, subsidize fossil fuels, and let Corporate Canada and the Big Banks dictate the climate agenda.
That's on them, not on conservatives.

Conservative opposition did not force Trudeau to buy the Trans Mtn pipeline.
Or promise to sell more fossil fuels to fund climate action.
Or shovel billions of tax dollars into the pockets of largely foreign-funded oil companies reporting record profits.
Conservative opposition did not force the Liberals to approve provincial carbon pricing schemes that let major emitters (e.g., in the oilsands) off the hook.

Trudeau is not doing anything against his will.
The Liberals' climate sins are long and many. Entirely their own responsibility.
Corporate Canada's plan to fail on climate was set in motion long before Trudeau came to power. The Liberals are delivering on that agenda willingly and effectively .

The conservative bogeyman does not explain or justify the Liberals' long history of failure.
These endless excuses and deflections for Liberal failure do not wash.

Lourie: "…we are producing oil and gas to meet their voracious demand, and if not Canada, countries further afield would fill that demand."

The good old amoral drug-dealer defence. Mr. Lourie just had to shove that in as well.
As long as the world is consuming hydrocarbons, Canada may as well be one of the suppliers. As long as the world is sprinting for the climate cliff, Canada may as well join the race.

Around the world, oil & gas companies makes the same drug-dealer arguments churned out by Alberta's War Room, parrotted here by Mr. Lourie: "Why should we stop selling crack? If addicts don't buy from me, they'll just buy from the guy down the street."

One can make the same argument for Canada's tobacco/asbestos/landmine industry.
Oddly enough, that defence doesn't fly in court.
A prescription for climate disaster.

Mark Jaccard, SFU energy economist: "Now, you can still make the argument that the production would have happened somewhere else. And that leads us to the general issue that climate change is a global collective action problem. We can always ensure that we will fail if we say "If I act to try to save us, others will just compensate." By that logic, we all go to hell together."

Big picture. AGAIN. You know how we keep hearing that society has never been more divided? That's true and that means the POLITICAL REALITY has become binary, as in the old saying, "there are two kinds of people in the world...."
So, under those circumstances, OUR current circumstances, which include our current political SYSTEM, if not the Liberals then WHO Mr. Pounder??
Is it not possible that the most successful and effective people EVOLVE over time and under inevitably changing circumstances which makes that the most salient factor in which party to vote for, i.e which party ACTUALLY HAS the ability to adapt? That excludes the right wing entirely; their oversized amygdalas become agitated by ANY change which totally disqualifies them from leadership at this time of existential threat from climate change.
And I am not a "liberal apologist," I'm not remotely tribal, am simply a progressive, straight up, and a realist.

Don't vote for failure.
Progressives and climate activists should not vote for any party that promises to take us over the climate cliff.
Petro-progressives (federal Liberals and provincial NDP) will take us over the climate cliff just as surely, and likely even faster, than blatant climate-change deniers on the right.
Whether we drive over the climate cliff at 100 kmh or 50 kmh, the result is the same.

Which is worse? Climate sabotage on the right, or betrayal by the "progressive" parties?
I can tell you which is more effective.

In Canada, the climate crisis is being driven by politicians and parties across the spectrum. In fact, the federal Liberals and provincial NDP parties (AB and B.C.) have proven far more effective than the Conservatives in delivering on Big Oil's and Corporate Canada's agenda.

Send the Liberals a message:
"We will vote for you if you take climate change seriously and stop propping up the O&G industry. Until then, no thanks. We are not buying what you are selling. We will not vote for climate disaster."

Vote for the status quo, and the status quo is what you get.
If progressives continue to reward the Liberals with their vote, the Liberals have no reason to change. If the Liberals can count on the progressive vote, they will take continue to take progressive voters for granted.
The only leverage voters have over political parties is their vote (and donations of time and money). If you want change, you have to vote for it.

Hopes that the Liberals will change their minds if progressives keep voting for them are empty — wishful thinking. No evidence that the Liberals offer any prospect but long-term failure on the climate file.
Hopes that the Liberals will change course are unfounded. Why would they change when progressives continue to vote for them? A vote for Trudeau's Liberals rewards them for past failure — and guarantees future failure.
Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results… If progressives continue to reward the Liberals with their vote, the Liberals have no reason to change. If the Liberals can count on the progressive vote, they will take continue to take progressive voters for granted.
Liberal/provincial NDP apologists are enabling climate disaster. You get what you vote for.

Hi Geoffrey, I removed the live links you had in the past two comments. If you have questions about why I did this, please write me at [email protected] Thanks, Linda

Reposting my second comment without weblinks:

As numerous climate experts and pundits attest, Liberal (i.e., Corporate Canada's) climate policy is both profoundly deficient and hopelessly disingenuous:
- Seth Klein: "The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal, 2016)
- "Thomas Gunton: Canada's new climate plan contains serious gaps" (Apr 07, 2022)
- Sabaa Khan & François Delorme: "Canada can and must get out of fossil energy" (National Observer, May 3rd 2022)
- Martin Lukacs: "How Trudeau learned to stop worrying and love the Alberta carbon bomb" (Breach Media, Sep 9 2021)
- Paris Marx: "Justin Trudeau's smoke and mirrors climate policy" (Canadian Dimension, Nov 8, 2021)
- David Gray-Donald, "Climate capitalism and 'regimes of obstruction'" (Canadian Dimension, July 27, 2021)
- David Gray-Donald: "The Liberal Climate Plan Is New Denialist Trash" (Media Co-op, Sep 16, 2021)
- Angela V. Carter and Truzaar Dordi, University of Waterloo: "Correcting Canada's 'one eye shut' climate policy" (April 14, 2021)
- "In Conversation: Ottawa is Continuing Its 'One Eye Shut' Climate Policy, Carter and Dordi Say"
- "Federal government not ready to deliver a just transition despite past promises" (April 27th 2022)

There is much missing in this exculpatory treatment of the Trudeau Liberals inadequate plan to address the climate emergency. Ignoring the TMX boondoggle for one, the continuing oversensitivity to CAPP lobbyists, another. But perhaps the greatest evidence of Li real insincerity is to be found on the political/electoral front.

Lourie says “ The Liberals are pushing ahead with persistence in a hostile environment characterized by vociferous critics who either have no climate plans at all, or at the other end of the spectrum, by activists calling for an immediate curtailment of oil production. The painful job of realpolitik climate sausage-making is not for those with weak stomachs or simple minds.”

By breaking his promise to ensure no more “first-past-the-post” elections and failing to implement the recommendations of his own Parliamentary committee on electoral reform, Trudeau disposed of the best means of ensuring the climate deniers will never form a government. Proportional representation would ensure a consistent majority in Parliament in favour of serious action on the climate emergency, not to mention the requisite federal action to bolster the country’s essential social programs. It’s not too late to act, but I’m not holding my breath. Lourie is too kind by half.