POLITICS
05/14/2019 12:58 EDT | Updated 06/18/2019 15:12 EDT

Catherine McKenna Moves To Force Conservatives To Vote On Paris Climate Targets

Her motion calls on the House to recognize climate change as a "real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity."

Adrian Wyld/CP
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks in the foyer of the House of Commons on May 3, 2019.

Federal Liberals are poised to force Conservatives to clarify if they believe Canada should meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets spelled out in the Paris climate accord.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna went on the offensive Tuesday with a motion that calls on the House of Commons to recognize climate change as a “real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity,” that is causing floods, forest fires and extreme weather events.

UPDATE: McKenna’s motion passed on June 17 by a vote of 186 to 63. Conservatives and People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier voted against the motion, while NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and Green MPs joined Liberals in support.

As a response, the motion reads, Canada should commit to its emissions targets under the Paris agreement and make “deeper reductions in line with the Agreement’s objective of holding global warming below two degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Under the Paris accord, Canada committed to a 30 per cent cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. However, Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand has said Canada is not at all on pace to hit those targets, even with the Liberal government’s carbon pricing plan.

More from HuffPost Canada:

The motion comes as Tory Leader Andrew Scheer faces pressure to reveal his climate plan in the lead-up to the federal election. The move will force Scheer’s MPs to vote one way or another on the Canada’s international commitments on climate change.

Scheer has pledged to scrap the Liberal carbon pricing plan, which includes a carbon tax of $20 per tonne on four provinces that refused to bring in a system up to federal standards: Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick.

New Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has also said his government will do away with the province’s carbon tax by the end of the month, setting up another legal fight with the feds.

Conservative MPs — with the exception of Ontario backbencher Cheryl Gallant — voted in 2017 to implement the Paris accord. Scheer also told CTV News in April of 2018 that his climate plan will meet Paris targets without a carbon tax.

Since then, however, Scheer has appeared to backtrack on that pledge by saying his plan will “speak to” Paris targets.

Conservative leaders want to ‘take us back in time’: McKenna

Before heading into a cabinet meeting Tuesday, McKenna told reporters on Parliament Hill that there is a “trend” of conservative politicians who think it should be free to pollute.

“Unfortunately conservative politicians from Jason Kenney to (Ontario Premier) Doug Ford to Andrew Scheer do not think that climate change is an increasing emergency, they do not see the economic opportunity of a cleaner future and, as a result, they’re trying to take us back in time,” she said.

McKenna also worked in a dig at the Ontario government’s “misleading advertising campaign,” for which taxpayers are on the hook, that bashes the federal carbon tax and makes no mention of the rebates Ontario families will be getting to offset costs.

McKenna’s gambit comes as the federal NDP appears to be stepping up efforts on the climate file in the wake of a B.C. byelection loss to the Greens.

In a motion that will be debated Wednesday, New Democrats are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare a climate emergency, scrap the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, and end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

Watch: Singh says Liberals, Tories have same plan for climate change

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh went a step further Monday by coming out against fracking, despite his earlier support for a $40-billion liquified natural gas project in B.C. that involves hydraulic fracturing. The LNG Canada project has the support of both the Trudeau government and the B.C. NDP government of John Horgan.

“As leader of the New Democratic Party... I do not believe that fracking or fossil fuels (are) the future of our country,” Singh said.

Asked about Singh’s comments on fracking, McKenna charged that the federal NDP was failing to support provincial cousins in B.C., just as they did Rachel Notley’s former NDP government in Alberta, despite its carbon tax and efforts to phase out coal.

In a possible sign of things to come, McKenna also hinted it was time for those most concerned about climate change to choose between Liberals and Conservatives.

“We need progressives to come together,” she said. “We need to take climate action.”

Scheer says his climate plan is coming

Scheer has pledged to unveil his climate plan before the end of the parliamentary session in June. The Tory leader is currently sharing his policy priorities in a series of keynote speeches.

In an address last week focused on foreign policy, Scheer said he would outline his environmental plan in a later speech.

“Issues such as climate change cannot be tackled by one country acting alone,” Scheer said at the time. “Canada must continue to work with international allies across the world, those that are willing to take up the heavy responsibility of ensuring that we pass on a planet cleaner and greener than the one we inherited.”

Here is the full text of McKenna’s motion:

That the House recognize that:

(a) climate change is a real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity, that impacts the environment, biodiversity, Canadians’ health, and the Canadian economy;

(b) Canadians are feeling the impacts of climate change today, from flooding, wildfires, heat waves and other extreme weather events which are projected to intensify in the future;

(c) climate change impacts communities across Canada, with coastal, northern and Indigenous communities particularly vulnerable to its effects;

and (d) action to support clean growth and meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all parts of the economy are necessary to ensure a safer, healthier, cleaner and more prosperous future for our children and grandchildren; and, therefore, that the House declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency which requires, as a response, that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with the Agreement’s objective of holding global warming below two degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

With previous files