Despite three decades of efforts, Canada’s carbon emissions have increased by 20% since 1990, the country is still unprepared for climate disasters, and subsidies to the oil and gas sector have failed to reduce promised emissions. , according to new reports from the federal government’s main environmental watchdog.
This damning verdict applies not only to former Liberal and Conservative governments, but also to the current government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Canada was once a leader in the fight against climate change. However, after a series of missed opportunities, it has become the worst of all G7 countries since the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015, ”said Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner for Development Jerry V. DeMarco in a media statement.
“We cannot keep going from failure to failure; we need actions and results, not just more goals and plans. “
DeMarco’s five reports examine various federal environmental efforts and conclude that, despite failures in a number of policy areas, Canada still has time to raise the bar.
“With firm and concerted action by parliamentarians and Canadians, Canada can move past its poor climate change record and meet its international climate change obligations,” said one of the reports.
“By building on momentum around the world and at home, including recent climate legislation, stronger plans and increased funding, Canada can achieve a cleaner, zero-net-emission future for generations.” future. “
The report on Canada’s record on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not an audit, DeMarco’s office said, but rather a review of progress aimed at helping governments improve performance in the country. ‘to come up.
The Commissioner identifies eight lessons that could put Canada back on track with its goal of reducing emissions by 40-45% from 2005 levels by 2030.
The first requires improved political leadership and coordination between the federal and provincial governments.
The commissioner notes that Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador produce 97 percent of Canada’s oil and gas and said any discussion of reducing emissions must closely involve energy-producing provinces to reduce national tensions on the issue.
“Canada needs to depolarize the climate change debate from the debate on whether the country should significantly reduce its emissions to a discussion of how emissions should be reduced,” said the Commissioner.
The commissioner’s office said that while Canada’s oil and gas sector is responsible for eight percent of GDP, it is also responsible for 25 percent of emissions.
To turn the tide, the commissioner said Canada must fund efforts to move workers away from emissions-intensive industries and increase the country’s dependence on low-emission energy sources.
Preparing for climate disasters
The commissioner said dealing with weather-related disasters, such as catastrophic flooding in the interior of British Columbia, costs the country up to six percent of GDP per year. Better preparation for such events is essential, according to one of the reports.
“Compared with the high costs of cleaning up disasters after the fact, investing early in adaptation measures avoids losses and generates significant economic, social and environmental benefits,” the report says.
The report notes that a recent poll shows that only three-quarters of Canadians agreed that global warming is caused by human activity and that only 60 percent of Canadians polled believed the federal government would betray its citizens if it did not. not tackling climate change.
To remedy this, the Commissioner calls on the federal government to better fight disinformation on climate change.
The commissioner’s office says that in the past, Canada’s stated climate goals were not supported by strategies to be followed.
“While the implementation of Canada’s current climate plans may meet Canada’s initial target for 2030 of a 30 percent reduction from 2005 levels, Canada now has a new, more ambitious target of 40 percent. one hundred to 45 percent. Therefore, the government will have to review the plans, policies and actions necessary to achieve the new goals, ”one of the reports said.
The Commissioner calls on the federal government to expand its team of partners to fight climate change and to take measures to protect future generations from its impacts. He said Ottawa could achieve this by working more closely with Indigenous communities, the financial sector, academics, non-governmental organizations and businesses.
Oil and gas subsidies
The Commissioner said that while recent laws, such as the Canada Net Emissions Accountability Act and the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, represent progress, more needs to be done. any further.
“Parliament… must step up its efforts in the fight against climate change to make up for decades of missed opportunities and missteps,” the report said.
DeMarco’s fall reports also contained a number of audits. One of the audits focused on the Emissions Reduction Fund, which was launched last year as part of the COVID-19 economic response plan.
The fund provides $ 675 million to help land-based oil and gas companies maintain jobs, attract investment, increase their competitiveness and accelerate the deployment of equipment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in particular methane.
Poor reporting standards
The audit found that in designing the program, Natural Resources Canada did not ensure that the drawdown from the fund would actually result in emission reductions in the oil and gas sector. The audit also found that expectations for emission reductions were “overestimated”.
“It is important that programs for oil and gas companies are efficient and effective in reducing emissions,” said DeMarco. “Otherwise, such programs risk undermining Canada’s efforts to fight climate change.
During Question Period in the House of Commons today, Green MP Elizabeth May asked the government to explain how it intends to fix the program.
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he welcomed the report and agreed with “a number of the commissioner’s comments”.
“It must be remembered that this particular program was a particular COVID response measure… but we are now beyond the worst of COVID and… have now started a review of the future of this program and the remaining funding,” a- he declared.
A separate audit in DeMarco’s fall report examined the work of 12 federal departments responsible for “healthy coasts and oceans, pristine lakes and rivers, and sustainable food.”
The audit found that although these departments “contributed to achieving the goals” set out in the federal government’s Sustainable Development Strategy, they did not adequately follow the guidelines or correctly indicate how the actions they took were effective. contributed to achieving the goals set by the federal government.
“Gaps in reporting make it difficult for parliamentarians and Canadians to understand progress made against Canada’s sustainable development commitments,” said DeMarco.
The fall reports also noted that efforts to reduce excessive nutrient deposition in Lake Erie, Lake Winnipeg, and the Wolastoq-Saint John River would be greatly enhanced if the federal government shared information and resources. with other organizations involved in water management.
An excess of nutrients, combined with global warming, can lead to “uncontrolled growth of algae” which threatens the water supply, according to the report.
“We are doing better,” says Minister of the Environment
Wilkinson said projections made before the Liberals came to power indicated that Canada’s emissions would be 12% above 2005 levels by 2030. He insisted the country will meet its reduction target. 45% of emissions by the end of the decade.
“To implement, you actually need to plan, you need to have detailed, concrete actions and that’s exactly what Canada has,” Wilkinson said.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said he welcomed the report and agreed “we need to do more”.
“We are getting better,” he added. “We are doing more things than any other government has ever done in Canada’s history on climate change. “
Guilbeault acknowledged that Canada has a poor track record in implementing climate change policies.
“We’ve been very good in Canada at having debates on goals and we haven’t been very good, until recently, at talking and working on implementation and that’s what we’ve been working very hard on. [on] since 2015, “he said.
The minister pointed to programs such as carbon pricing and investments in public transport as evidence of progress.
“We already have one of the most aggressive carbon pricing systems in the world,” he said.
The Conservatives released a statement saying the commissioner said something they had been emphasizing for years – that the targets are not being met.
“We urgently need policies that [encourage] the continued development of low-carbon energy and the reduction of carbon emissions, “the statement said.
“Canada’s Conservatives will continue to fight for a plan that prioritizes provinces, communities and workers to ensure that people can live in a country with a secure climate future. We can fight both climate change and secure the future of workers.