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Feds Receive Mixed Reviews for Adopting Harper’s Carbon Target


The federal government is drawing a mixed response for the news that it is sticking with the Harper-era goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030, rather than adopting a more ambitious target.

While Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have repeatedly called that target a floor, not a ceiling, for the country’s climate ambition, DeSmog Canada’s James Wilt says a solid outcome is more important than a higher number.

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While setting a new, more ambitious target might have drawn positive headlines, it may well have set the country up for repeated failures,” he writes. “Ultimately, policy experts are more concerned with the details that will be contained in the government’s upcoming climate plan.”

“Measures matter more,” IISD’s Amin Asadollahi told Wilt. “Setting up a target and missing it misses the point.”

“We have, in this country, a long history of having targets, and a very short history of having actual plans to meet them,” agreed Clare Demerse of Clean Energy Canada. “We have been in a situation where Canada has really established a credibility problem in terms of hitting targets. We need to fix that.”

Asadollahi noted that the Paris Agreement calls for five-year reviews, beginning in 2018, where countries will be expected to “ratchet up” their ambition for deeper greenhouse gas reductions. “Every five years, we’ll come back to the table and the international community will test this resolve as to whether it has the political will to put the world on a trajectory to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” he said.

The government’s critics were a lot less patient with the 30% by 2030 target. Green Party leader Elizabeth May called it “nothing short of a disaster for the climate”, while PressProgress says the Liberals’ own election platform “makes Catherine McKenna’s carbon target sound pretty darned ‘catastrophic.’”

The Liberals campaigned against a GHG target “drawn up by a man who won international awards for being ‘the absolute worst’ at dealing with climate change,” the site states. PressProgress notes that the Liberal platform calls for “national emissions-reduction targets, informed by the best economic and scientific analysis. These targets must recognize the economic cost and catastrophic impact that a greater-than two-degree increase in average global temperatures would represent, as well as the necessity for Canada to do its part to prevent that from happening. We believe that Harper’s targets are inadequate and meaningless without a plan to achieve them.”