By Miles O’Brien, CNN • Updated 17th November 2018
Overcoming a year of speculation and speculation on where they stood on climate change, the new Liberal leadership team finally released a detailed plan for tackling the effects of global warming.
First leaked in September, the long-awaited climate change strategy includes a number of ambitious goals, including a cut in Canada’s annual emissions of carbon dioxide to 35% below 2005 levels by 2030.
However, public pollsters recently revealed that the Canadian public has dramatically different views of the issues of climate change and the greenhouse gas emissions. A survey by Nanos Research Inc. found that 45% of Canadians think we’re doing something wrong about global warming, compared to 59% in the United States and 70% in China.
(The survey asked Canadians about their views over time, showing that just five years ago a much larger majority of Canadians viewed the threat of global warming as real.)
Although the government’s plan includes several high-profile investments, especially into renewable energy — a $1.7 billion fund toward that end, in addition to a $100 billion Canada Clean Energy Fund to fund clean energy technologies — it falls short on another key priority. It has vowed to increase the price of carbon across the board — starting with a 2020 start date for a carbon tax per ton of carbon emissions — but it proposes only a modest increase, to $20 per ton in 2022. The federal government has not introduced any existing carbon tax in Canada, but has pursued its own policy elsewhere, including using a tax on diesel fuel to fight climate change in Saskatchewan.
The plan would also restrict industry on methane emissions by 2020, but after that a scheme that mirrors the United States’ Clean Power Plan would not be implemented.
And it’s a plan that falls short on another key point: speed.
No money for big projects
It has been many years since our government had to make that decision in the context of dealing with climate change, but our commitment to dealing with climate change has been demonstrated consistently by the fact that a solid majority of Canadians do support action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane.
Unfortunately for the Canadian people, it has not been forthcoming. It is time for this government to be honest with Canadians and to assure them that our commitment to the environment is well-invested and real.
Perhaps the government could have used this unprecedented opportunity to do so.
Instead, the plan commits just $2.5 billion to the basic “green infrastructure” that is needed to get us to the goal of an ambitious, but realistic, 20% reduction in emissions.
Far from what the public expects from this government, there is virtually no money in the plan to deploy big, alternative-energy projects that can help us meet our ambitious goal of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.
The absence of major investments is particularly worrying in light of a number of recent reports.
What’s happening to Canadian resources?
On September 10, the Canadian Department of National Defence released a 28-page paper that described the new government’s approach to defending Canadian sovereignty. In terms of what’s happening with our resources, the conclusion is that the resource sector and international competitiveness has been a major driver of current economic growth, and will continue to be so in the future.
When the Trudeau government was elected in 2015, its approach seemed to be a balance between economic expansion and environmental stewardship. Its early industrial carbon policy, aimed at pro-regulatory and investment reforms, signalled that something in the right direction, at least, might be possible.
But there has been little sign of change.
There is no commitment to end the troubling trend of expanding, in Canada and overseas, destructive fossil fuel projects that should not be in Canada’s national interest. There is no acknowledgment of that industry’s power to fuel climate change and its role in driving investment in technology and manufacturing that create new green jobs and a green economy.
There is no recognition that we need to become more energy efficient and to boost our energy efficiency. And there is no sustained effort to reform our national energy system to reduce our reliance on oil and gas, for example, and support innovative, low-carbon technologies.
Climate change is one of the greatest threats we will face in our lifetime. If Canada continues on the path it has been on, our vision of Canada at the forefront of climate change will only be dreams, not realities.