TORONTO — “The clock is ticking.”
Canada’s next government will have a vital role to play in averting climate disaster, according to Isabelle Turcotte, federal policy director at the clean energy think tank Pembina Institute.
“This is a really important moment when Canadians are deciding who should be their leader,” Turcotte said of the federal election in October.
“The next four years are fundamental.”
Pembina Institute, along with 13 other environmental organizations, released results Tuesday of a survey they had sent to all federal parties.
“The next four years are fundamental.”
They asked if parties would “immediately” introduce a climate plan that would reduce emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and whether that plan would “clearly and precisely describe programs to reduce emissions” from areas like transportation and the oil and gas industry.
“This is really the limit that we should respect,” Turcotte said of the 1.5-degree mark. “Because at that point, there are serious impacts on our ecosystems that would be really devastating for too many of us.”
Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius would still come with consequences for millions of people, like water scarcity, severe droughts, flooding and heatwaves, according to a Carbon Brief article that drew on data from 70 peer-reviewed scientific studies.
How the parties answered
Four Canadian parties answered the survey questions: The Bloc Quebeçois, Green party, Liberals and NDP.
The Bloc answered “yes” to the question, “Will you immediately legislate a climate plan that will reduce Canada’s emissions in line with keeping warming below 1.5°C?”
Parliament should not only pass legislation to set targets, but also to force the government to take action to achieve them, the party said.
“Setting a reduction target is pointless in itself,” the Bloc Quebeçois said. “Canada set a target under the Kyoto Protocol but did nothing to achieve it. The same thing is happening now with the Paris Agreement, with Canada moving ever further from its target. ”
A Bloc Quebeçois government would gradually increase the carbon price and change the rebate system so that revenue collected from “polluting provinces” is given to “non-polluters,” the party said.
The Conservative party did not answer any of the survey’s specific questions but sent one general statement on its plan to fight climate change.
A Conservative government would focus on “technology over taxes,” the party said.
“Given the current trajectory of major emitters like China, the only way we can keep warming below 2℃ – let alone 1.5℃ – is to achieve major leaps in emissions-reducing technology.”
The Conservatives said they would make sure businesses aren’t hurt by any of its measures to fight climate change. They also said they would act on other environmental issues like air pollution, plastics waste and protecting wetlands and waterways.
The Green party said it would immediately implement a plan that meets the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommended targets to keep warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius. Canada’s emissions reduction target would be 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2050.
“Canada is already so far behind that there is no time to lose.”
Canada’s current target under the Paris Agreement is 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The country is not on track to meet that target, even when the government factors in additional laws that are being developed but aren’t in force yet.
“Canada is already so far behind that there is no time to lose,” the Green party said in its answer. “We must utilize all the tools in the federal tool kit.”
“Yes,” was also the Liberals’ answer to the question about implementing a law that would aim to reduce emissions to reign in warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“A re-elected Liberal government would adopt a net-zero [greenhouse gas] target for Canada for 2050,” the party said. “We would immediately appoint an expert advisory panel to recommend pathways to reach the 2050 target, and we would develop a plan to achieve it drawing on their recommendations, as well as on consultations with Canadians in all sectors and regions of the country.”
The Liberals said they would strengthen existing laws that limit emissions from big polluters, cut corporate taxes in half for companies that create “zero emissions technologies” and provide free energy efficiency audits to homeowners.
The NDP said that past governments — Liberal and Conservative — have set emissions reduction targets and then ignored them.
“A New Democrat government will immediately declare a climate emergency and put into law the requirement for the government to establish a plan to meet ambitious, science-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets that will help stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the party said.
“Our plan will use the powers of the federal government to ensure that the provinces set and meet interim emissions reduction targets in the lead up to 2030 and 2050.”
The NDP said it would revise 2030 targets and create an independent “Climate Accountability Office” to audit the government’s progress.
The People’s Party of Canada, led by former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier, did not respond to the survey at all.
Read the parties’ complete answers to all 10 environmental questions here.